Iranian officials said they found hundreds of dead sharks with their fins cut off on an island in the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s official news agency the IRNA quoted Hossein Delshab, an environmental official at the southern port city of Bushehr, on Monday as saying the dead sharks were found on the nearby Shif island.

Delshab also said some fishermen caught the sharks for their fins, which were believed to have medicinal properties. After cutting off their fins, the fishermen threw the sharks into the sea as they feared they will be fined, BBC reported. The sharks then ended up washing up on the beach.

Although shark fishing was banned in Iran in 2014 over concerns the population was facing extinction, fins of the fish were cut off to be used as a treatment for sexual disorders. According to Delshab, the price for 1kg (2.2lb) of shark fin was about $2.

Talking about the practice of culling shark fins in a piece for The Smithsonian Ocean Portal, an educational website created and maintained by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C ., Caty Fairclough said that the monetary and cultural value of shark fins was what made them great targets for fishermen. Used in a popular dish called shark fin soup, which is a symbol of status in Chinese culture, the fins were thought to have medicinal benefits and represented a victory against powerful sharks in the ancient times.

The popularity of the soup and the use of shark fins did not decrease with time, thus giving fishermen more incentive to hunt for sharks and sell their fins.

Fairclough also added: “Many fishermen prefer to practice shark finning instead of bringing whole sharks to the market because the fins are far more valuable than the rest of the body … Instead, fishermen choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive, where they do not die peacefully: unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.”

In the Gulf region, fin trade had wreaked havoc on several species including hammerheads, oceanic whitetip, blue, threshers and silky and contributed to 181 shark and ray species being listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as threatened with extinction, according to a 2013 report in Arab News.

In July, an Iranian fisherman faced backlash after posting a video that appeared to show him leaping from a boat onto the back of a whale shark in the Persian Gulf. However, Mohammad Tollab, director of the Marine and Environmental Protection Agency in Bushehr, told News24 that the man would not face any punishment because the shark sustained no injuries.