The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has smashed an international wildlife smuggling racket with the seizure of about 8,000 kg of shark fins in Mumbai and the coastal town of Veraval in Gujarat. Four persons, including the mastermind, have also been arrested.According to the DRI, the consignments were meant to be illegally exported to China and Hong Kong. The fins were procured from the seas along the coasts of Ratnagiri and Mumbai in Maharashtra, and Veraval and Okha in Gujarat. They are used for preparing “shark fin” soup in China and Vietnam. Usually served on special occasions such as weddings and banquets, it is considered a luxury food item and is of immense significance, with one bowl of soup costing at least $100.Acting on a tip-off that some exporters were indulging in the trans-border smuggling of fins of various species of sharks, the agency mounted surveillance and zeroed in on the suspects. The fins were to be smuggled out on the pretext of exports of dried ray skins, dried marine products, and fish maw, to evade detection. “In all, 3,000 kg of shark fins was seized from the godown at Sewri and 5,000 kg from the godown in Veraval. Investigations are under way to determine from when the gang had been operating,” said an official.The wildlife inspectors confirmed that the seized goods were shark fins. “It has come up during the investigations that the stocks are replenished regularly,” the official said.Through a notification dated February 6, 2015, the Finance Ministry has prohibited export of shark fins of all species. The agency said shark finning is an act of removing the fins, often while the shark is alive. Fishermen keep just the fins — only 1 to 5% of the fish’s weight — and throw away the rest, as they fetch a high price.With the fins having been removed, the sharks are unable to swim. As a result, they either sink to the bottom of the sea and die, or get eaten by other predators.In August 2013, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had approved a policy on “shark finning”, prohibiting removal of fins on board a vessel on the sea. The policy prescribes that any possession of shark fins would amount to “hunting” of a Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act.India became signatory to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in September 2014 and listed five more shark species for conservation.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has asked the State Coordinator for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to remove the confusion over the status of refugees who came to Assam between 1966 and 1971 and add their names to the citizens’ list to be published by July 31.The midnight of March 24, 1971, is the cut-off for detecting, detaining and deporting illegal migrants under the 1985 Assam Accord, which was signed between the Centre and leaders of the Assam Agitation that took place between 1979 and 1985. The Accord stipulates that those who came from Bangladesh between 1966 and 1971 be barred from voting for 10 years before their citizenship is considered.A major stream of refugees entered India after the India-Pakistan war in 1965 and during the war for liberation of East Pakistan that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.“There is a confusion over the status of those who entered India from the ‘specified territory’ between January 1, 1966, and March 24, 1971. Many people belonging to this category were identified by the Foreigners’ Tribunals and asked to register themselves with the competent authority,” CPI(M) leader Deben Bhattacharyya said in a letter to NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela on Friday.“A big number of such people registered themselves… They are very much eligible for inclusion in the NRC. But there prevails a lot of confusion among NRC officials in some areas over their eligibility…,” he said.The CPI(M) urged Mr. Hajela to order the inclusion of the people belonging to the 1966-1971 refugee stream in the NRC.