Marine species traffickers move fishy biz to Mumbai

With authorities in Chennai increasing their vigilance on illegal trade of marine species, Mumbai is emerging as a new hub for these smugglers. Items like shark fins and dried sea-horses are usually sourced at Rameshwaram and the Gulf of Mannar, then routed to Mumbai before being sent to Malaysia, officials said.

Recently, the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit (MMCU), under the state mangrove cell, arrested three smugglers who revealed during interrogation that consignments of illegal marine species are being routed through Mumbai. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) will issue an advisory this week to carry out rigorous checks to intercept marine species like sea-horses, sea cucumbers, shark fins and pipefish.

“Chennai ports have tightened vigilance from air and port authorities. Consignments are being diverted through Mumbai. We have now issued an alert about these marine products and a formal advisory will be issued by Wednesday requesting the alertness of customs, police and other agencies,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB.

On March 7, Chennai resident Sadiq Basha Jamal-u-din, 53, was caught with 30kg of dried seahorses (a protected species) at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. He was flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“On interrogating the accused, we found out he was a trafficker with links to an international illicit marine products racket. He revealed the names of two other accused who were already in custody of Chennai courts,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.

Abdul Rahman, 52, and Muhammad Abu Bakar, 43, were arrested at Chennai airport on February 25, while on their way to Mumbai. This was one of the largest seizures of marine products in history: 111kg pangolin scales, 160kg dried sea-horse, 180kg dried pipe fish, 5kg sea cucumber, 125 kg sting ray gills, and 79kg shark fins. “While we have identified the international buyer and leader of the network in Malaysia, one person was identified as the source collecting marine products from Rameshwaram and Gulf of Mannar and informing the network,” said Ghodke.

First Published:
Mar 24, 2019 05:00 IST

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