shark fin
Bags of shark fins from a Singapore Airlines shipment are seen in Hong Kong, China, May 11, 2018. Sea Shepherd Global/Handout via REUTERS

Around 2,100 pounds of assorted fins of various endangered shark species, including that of a giant placid whale shark, were found in a Singapore Airlines shipment to Hong Kong in May.

The shipment came from Sri Lanka via Singapore, Reuters reported, and was labeled “dry seafood,” Singapore Airlines said Wednesday.

This incident highlighted the challenges China faces regulating trade. Viewed as a delicacy, Hong Kong is the largest trading center for shark fins.

Though the import of shark fins is permitted in Hong Kong, the shipment of the species — listed by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) — must be accompanied by a permit. Hong Kong has also moved to stop illegal trading.

“This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so didn’t flag any alarms,” said Gary Stokes, Asia director at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which discovered the endangered shark fins within the shipment.

Warehouses in certain parts of Hong Kong, where the Singapore Airline’s shipment was sent to, were filled with bags of shark fins, which are viewed as status symbols in China.

These shark appendages are consumed in a shredded jelly like soup, with most restaurants across Hong Kong serving the delicacy as it is believed to have nourishing benefits.

Shark fin smugglers target Maersk, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia Cargo, which have all banned its transport, a Sea Shepherd investigation revealed last year.

Stokes said in a statement, "The months leading up to Chinese New Year are always the busiest months for the shark fin traders as they seek to fulfill the demand of the mainland Chinese market during the festive holiday."

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over 70 million sharks are killed annually. This has put over a quarter of species to extinction.

Shipping bans and tighter international regulations have reduced the volume of shark fins coming into Hong Kong by 50 percent over the past 10 years.

“A 50 per cent drop in imports [to Hong Kong] would have been felt by shark traders around the globe, and should result in less pressure on shark populations,” said Dr Andy Cornish, who leads WWF’s global shark and ray initiative, reported South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong imported 10,210 tons of shark fins in 2007, which was dropped to 1,434 tons in 2017.

However, illegal supply of fins continues as the government seized thousands of kilograms of shark fin including those of the threatened hammerhead and oceanic white tip sharks, Reuters reported.

Trading products from endangered species in Hong Kong is punishable by two years in jail and a fine of $643,878.