The Botswana government is not able to explain the statistics, which signify shark fin exports in 2018 plus a few years before that. Picture: iStock/ Connah
Botswana has no coastline, yet it is still exporting shark fins values P17 million (R24 million) to neighboring countries, such as South Africa, according to the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the UN’s Comtrade database.
The Botswana government is not able to clarify the figures, which signify shark fin exports 2018 plus a few years prior to that.
It’s expressed fears that strong syndicates are using the country as a conduit to smuggle products of shark species listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which Botswana is a signatory.
ITC data demonstrate that Botswana is among several nations that trade in shark products — a market worth $1 billion (R17 billion) annually, according to a Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report.
As a UN member, Botswana should report its trade statistics to the organisation’s statistics division on an yearly basis. According to the information, most of the shark fins are exported to Zambia and South Africa. It isn’t clear where they originate, although They’re then\.
Lately, South Africa — that can be required to report its own trade figures into the UN — has not recorded these imports, fuelling suspicions of illegal smuggling.
The ITC database proves that the fins are dried, smoked or preserved in brine. They’re used as the main ingredient in shark fin soup.
One of those businesses suspected of being involved with clearing the goods revealed that the products included dried mopane worms and tinned fish
Shark finning is a grisly process which entails cutting off the fins live sharks and pitching the wounded fish overboard, where they sink to the bottom of the sea. There, unable to swim and extract oxygen from water passing over their gills, they suffocate, die of blood loss or are eaten by predators.
The FAO report lists South Africa among the countries that imported shark fins from Japan, the world’s seventh-largest exporter of this product to the value of $8.8 million between 2000 and 2011.
Moeme Batshabang, acting deputy director in Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, was baffled.
“It’s shocking that in 2015, Botswana was second only to Brazil in terms of shark fin exports. We do not really know how that happened,” he explained.
Batshabang suggested that the shark fins appearing at the ITC database could happen to be re-exported by smugglers, but added that mistakes in capturing the data could also be accountable to their own listing.
He pointed out some of the goods Botswana exported to South Africa under the heading of”shark fins, harmonised system, code 030571″ in 2019 were discovered to be another item.
“After a tip-off, we started verifying information about the exports together with specialists. A number of companies which were suspected of being included were contested,” Batshabang explained.
“Among those companies suspected of being involved with clearing the goods revealed that the goods comprised dried mopane worms and tinned fish”
Batshabang disputed proposals that Botswana was a conduit for the export of shark fins due to its lax legislation concerning the smuggling of wildlife goods.
“We’re a part of CITES and subscribe to its procedures. If companies wish to trade in goods of controlled animals like sharks, they’re expected to obtain export and import licenses,” he clarified.
He said the Botswana authorities was still investigating the issue.
This story has been produced from the INK Centre for Investigative Journalism in affiliation with IJ Hub