On August 21st, Wendell Estol, Sea Shepherd Brazil Director, and Luiz André Albuquerque, attorney for Sea Shepherd Brazil, attended another hearing at the Federal Court of Rio Grande/RS on the environmental public civil action filed on May 18th, 2009 by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) against the fishing company Dom Matos, due to the assessment of 3.3 tons of illegally obtained shark fins. Sea Shepherd Brazil and the South Coast Institute (Instituto Litoral Sul) in Santa Vitória do Palmar/RS are assisting IBAMA in this action.
The hearing was called to receive testimony of the witness Carolus Maria Vooren, PhD, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) and one of the founders of the Brazilian Society for the Study of Elasmobranchs (SBEEL).
During the hearing, Professor Vooren recalled going to the IBAMA office to participate in the procedure of identification of the shark species from which the fins were taken — narrow-nose smooth-hound shark, Brazilian guitarfish and angel shark — and specified that these species found in the seizure are routinely captured by commercial fishing. When asked by the representative of the Federal Public Ministry to explain the harmfulness of catching these endangered sharks, he pointed out that this was of great environmental damage. According to studies conducted between 1985 and 2002, these shark species had declined at the rate of 85% and this was one of the reasons why these species were included in the List of Endangered Species (Index II of Instruction nº05 / 2004 IBAMA).
He added to his testimony, stating that "continued overfishing will aggravate the situation of these species and Brazil will lose this natural heritage."
According to the technical report submitted at the time of admission of the lawsuit, given the number of fins, it is estimated that approximately 36,000 specimens had been slaughtered.
Sea Shepherd Brazil encourages the Brazilian justice system to levy the strongest possible consequences against Dom Matos and awaits the punishment of the guilty parties.
Shark fins seized at the time of the action. Illegally obtained shark fins from the 3.3 tons confiscated by IBAMA
On May 7th, 2009, Sea Shepherd Brazil and the South Coast Institute joined together for an environmental civil action against the same fishing company, Dom Matos, working in support of IBAMA.
Since April 2008, Sea Shepherd Brazil has conducted an ongoing awareness campaign in defense of sharks, along with efforts to monitor and investigate companies that have caused irreversible damage to elasmobranchs populations in Brazil, and helping to bring those companies to justice. Annually, more than 100 million sharks are killed globally, which has caused some shark populations to decline by more than 90%.
In Brazil, about 43% of shark species are threatened with extinction. At this current rate, many species will be extinct in less than ten years.