MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Almost 1,400 pounds of dried shark fins were seized by wildlife inspectors at PortMiami.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which made the seizure back on Jan. 24, the fins were found in 18 boxes that inspectors believe originated in South America.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added that the fins were most likely bound for Asia.
The estimated total commercial value of the shipment, inspectors said, was anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million.
“It is very big money stuff. It is very harmful to the ecology,” said Bouncer Smith, a charter captain.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed with Customs and Border Protection to make the bust.
Authorities have not announced any criminal charges, citing a pending investigation.
Studies have estimated that anywhere from 70 to 100 million sharks are harvested each year for their fins.
The illicit practice, called shark finning, involves fishermen slicing the fins off before throwing the live shark back in the water. Unable to swim, the sharks either suffocate or bleed to death.
“This is one of the most heinous crimes in nature that we have seen,” Smith said.
The fins are typically used to make shark fin soup, which is a delicacy in China for its perceived medical properties.
“Whether it is rhino horns, elephant tusks, shark fin soup, they seem to be if you convince ‘em it’s hard to get, they want it all that much more,” Smith said.