For more than 400 million years by now, sharks have been swimming through the oceans- long before dinosaurs were hatching out of their eggs. 530 different species of sharks still exist today, yet most are endangered. Among others, the Great White Shark is, as well as all kinds of hammerhead sharks, listed on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species. Bringing more shark species on the top spots of this list is obviously the desire of the company PROPEGAL SL, located in the Galician Vigo.
The company celebrates itself as “one of the leaders of global shark fin trade“, strictly according to law: for the EU prohibited landing shark fins without the rest of the fishes’ body in July 2013. As a result, the fins get cropped (on an industrial scale) ashore in the halls of PROPEGAL and are afterwards offered for sale on the company’s website, where you can even find a self-promotion video on the act of finning, accompanied with motivating music. That’s enough for SHARKPROJECT to name them the SHARK ENEMY of the YEAR.
PROPEGAL is most certainly not the sole or largest corporation of its kind, neither in Spain nor in Vigo – yet it is the only one which brags and gloats about it in such an offensive way. PROPEGAL sprightly expedites the extinction of sharks in the ocean and cynically trivializes this fact through seemingly innocent laxness.
The seaport Vigo is located in Galacia/ Spain. To insiders, it is regarded as one of the biggest, maybe even the biggest, european trading center for shark products. Due to this, lots of the shipping companies which are involved in the international trade of shark products (fins as well as flesh) are domiciled there. According to statistics constructed by Shark Trust, about 30% of all shark fins shipped to Hong Kong from all over the world come from Europe. Regarding this trade, Vigo definitely occupies an important position.
About 98% of the claws landing in Vigo are imported by fishermen using the longlining technique all over the entire Atlantic Ocean.
Vigo is considered a hub for the trade of shark fins of the entire North and South Atlantic as well as the Indian Ocean.
The “global players” of shark fin trade located in Vigo and its immediate vicinity are poorly represented on the Internet. Only few companies are known publicly, though the few websites are quite open about the product shark: PROPEGAL promotes its modern facilities in the port of Vigo, which dry 95% of the shark fins in drying tunnel systems already before being transported to Far East.
Neither the governing mayor of Vigo, Abel Ramón Caballero Álvarez, nor the department of the nationwide active Guardia Civil, Seprona, being responsible for the environmental protection, see any reason to intervene, even though white sharks, hammerhead sharks, mako sharks and topes are processed in Vigo. At least two of these species are listed on the CITES-list Appendix II and are only allowed to be traded to a limited extent.
The destination of the fins has by now been known for a long time: Hong Kong. Not so the destination of the shark flesh. Since July, 2013, when the new EU regulaton against finning entered into force, sharks have to be landed on the whole. Previously, sharks were directly thrown back into the sea after being “finned”, where they died crucifyingly. The fact that it is from now on only allowed to crop the fins ashore brings along new challenges for the Spanish fishermen: if more flesh arrives, more flesh also is to be marketed.
Simply in 2011, 80.000 tons of blue and mako sharks were caught in the Atlantic Ocean. The proportion of Spanish fishermen is according to ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) 48.000 tons, making up about 60% of the total magnitude in Europe. Potrugal yielded approximately 20% ( 16.000 tons of blue and mako sharks).
It is to be assumed that the majority of these 80% is merchandised by companies located in Vigo. Vigo exportes shark meat to almost every European country, again increased as well to Germany. Due to the new legislation, the proportion of shark meat is significantly higher than in the past, which is why new markets for shark meat are sought-after Europe-wide. It ist as well documeted that the spanish companies are trying to influence the government towards tilting the new EU regulation.
All these facts convinced us to nominate PROPEGAL SL (represented by its chief executive Maria Josefa Juncal Souto) this years SHARKPROJECT Shark Enemy.