Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection (BCNP) Unit of Sri Lanka Customs has seized a shipment containing dried shark fins belong to two (02) Shark species of which the international trade is restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These fins have been found when the BCNP officers examined a Hong Kong bound 20-foot container said to contain dried shark fins at the Export Facilitation Centre of Sri Lanka Customs on 22.03.2021.
The fins have been identified as belonging to the Shortfin Mako Shark (Scientific name: Isurus oxyrinchus) and the Hammerhead Shark species (Scientific name: Sphyrna spp.). Both these species are included in the IUCN Red List of Species and also listed under the Appendix II of the CITES because they are likely to be threatened with extinction in near future due to the overexploitation. Therefore, a prior obtained CITES Export Permit is required for them to be legally exported from Sri Lanka. In this case, the exporter has failed to produce a CITES Export Permit for the dried fins of the two species concerned. In total, about 250 kilograms of dried shark fins belong to the said two species have been found. On average this quantity accounts to about 250 – 300 sharks. The estimated market value for these fins would be more than Rs. 2 Million and they are a highly sought-after ingredient in the luxurious Cantonese cuisine, especially in the Shark Fin Soup.
Attempting to export CITES listed fishery products without a valid CITES export permit is a violation according to the Fish and Fishery Products Export, Import and Re-export Management Regulations 2017 published under the Extra Ordinary Gazette Notification No. 2023/51 dated 15.06.2017.
BCNP officers seized 76 Tomato Hind fish (Cephalopholis Sonnerati) at the Air Cargo Village Terminal of the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake on 10.03.2021 while attempting to export illegally to UK by flight UL 503. These fish were found mis-declared as Red Grouper (Epinephelus sp) in a shipment of Edible fish containing 48 boxes weighing 796.4kg.
Tomato Hind fish (Cephalopholis Sonnerati) also known as “Thambuwa” is a protected marine fish in Sri Lanka under the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2014/04 of 11.04.2017 issued under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 2 of 1996. Accordingly, no person shall catch, possess, transport, purchase, exhibit for sale, sell or export the fish within Sri Lanka or Sri Lankan Waters. The 76 Tomato Hind fish were forfeited and the exporter was penalized under the provisions of the Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235).
Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Branch of Sri Lanka Customs has seized a large quantity of dried shark fins and Mobulid ray gill plates protected both nationally and internationally while attempted to illegally export to Hong Kong.
All the shark species for which these seized fins belong have been listed in the Red List of species published by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and their populations have become Critically Endangered. Scientists have found that their populations have decreased more than 80% over their last three generations length.
The three Mobulid Ray species are having a conservation status of “Endangered” which means their populations have reduced more than 50% - 79% over their last three generations length.
All the species for which these specimens belong have been listed under the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the main international instrument in place in regulating the international Wildlife trade. Hence, no one can export any live or dead fish or their parts or derivatives without a CITES Export Permit from the CITES Management Authority of Sri Lanka i.e. the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Moreover, the Oceanic Whitetip Shark is a shark species with stricter protection where no person can catch them except for the collection of museum, biological sampling for taxonomic study and research purposes.
These fins and fish gills are meant to be exported to Hong Kong and considered as a delicacy in the Cantonese cuisine and specially used as a luxury ingredient of soups where a bowl could be priced for more than $ 100.
Investigations are ongoing and actions will be taken under the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act No. 02 of 1996 and the Customs Ordinance to penalize the offenders. Investigation in to this case is conducted by the Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Branch under the supervision of ADGC (Enforcement) and DC (Social Protection) with the leadership of the Director General of Customs, Retd. Major General G.V. Ravipriya.
Details of Seized Goods:
This detection was made by Bio Diversity Cultural and National Heritage protection division officers on 17.12.2020 at the Export Facilitation centre. The shipment was declared as Dried Sea Cucumber (Beach de mer - Pawakka) in the Customs declaration form. While Customs officers were examining the shipment, it was found that 200kgs of other Sea Cucumber species (Sand fish - Holothuria scabra ) is concealed with Pawakka (Stichopus naso). Therefore this is a clearly violation of Customs Ordinance by undeclaration of goods. A formal customs inquiry was held regarding this matter.
Sri Lanka customs has detained a container on 21.10.2020 at Export Facilitation Center, Colombo 13. After examination, it was found that 39.98 kg of Wallapatta (Gyrinops walla) and 880 kg of Sandalwood (Santhalum album), both worth of Rs.5 million (USD 28,000), that were concealed in boxes of vegetables and sugar cane in a 20 feet long container. This is a violation of Customs Ordinance read with Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and Forest Ordinance.
On 18.10.2020 BCNP officers seized a consignment contained flesh meat of Ray fish (Mobula Spp.). This species is covered under CITES Appendix II. The exporter has not produced valid CITES permit for exporting cargo.
On 18.10.2020, Customs has detained a consignment of excess quantity of plants by violating provisions of Plants Protection Act and Customs Ordinance. This consignment was subsequently released after completing the quarantine procedure and after imposing a penalty of Rs. 18,300/=.
On 21.09.2020 Customs detained a shipment of sea weeds and penalized (Rs. 100,000) the enterprise for illegal attempt of exporting Glacilaria salicornia species by using a permit for exporting Glacilaria verucosa. According to the source of National Aquatic Resource Agency of Sri Lanka, Glacilarias alicornia has not been identified for commercially potential article for export. However, Glacilaria verucosa is permitted to exports as it is available in commercial quantities.
Famous live ornamental fish exporter tried to export an endemic fish species which was recently discovered in Sri Lanka.These species were identified by Mr. Hiranya Sudasinghe (University of Peradeniya). The destination of shipment was South Africa.
Puntius titteya(Cherry Barb) was found in one bag of fish. Puntius titteya is restricted to export under Fisheries & Aquatic resources act No 2 of 1996.The fish bag was immediately detained by the BCNP Customs officials and handed over the fish bag to the NARA for further clarification. As per the NARA report following fish species were found in the bag.
• Schisturanotostigma – Banded Mountain loach
• Schisturascripta – Scripted Mountain loach (Recently discovered species)
• Schisturamadavai – Madava’s Mountain loach (Recently discovered species)
• Puntius titteya – Cherry Barb
Only Schistura notostigma is declared and other two species was not declared by the exporter. This may be attempt to export new genus to foreign countries. BCNP officers are conducting further investigations regarding this case.
Special thanks to Mr. Samantha Gunasekara – Former Deputy Director of Customs, environmentalist for providing guidelines for species identification.
On 28th June 2020, Customs Officers working at air cargo village terminal Katunayaka examined a shipment which contained 25 Kg of poppy seeds. Exportation was done by a company located at Nawalapitiya.
The goods declared as “Vegitables”. Upon examination, one package contained 25 kg of poppy seeds and the rest of the shipment contained fruits and vegetables. Since poppy seeds are prohibited to export under the Poison, Poppy and Dangerous Drug Act, Director of Customs (Exports Division) ordered to detain the goods and subsequently seized by the Customs officers after the customs inquiry. Also a penalty of Rs 25,000.00 was imposed to the exporter.
This violates sections 12, 44, 107A of customs ordinance read with Poison, Opium and Dangerous Drug act NO.13 of 1984
Detection was done by,
• R M T S S Danapala – Assistant Superintendent Of Customs (Export Division)
• M P H Wickrama - Assistant Superintendent Of Customs (Export Division)
This case was detected on 16.02.2020 at Air Cargo Export Terminal, Katunayaka. A consignment of "Edible Fish" containing 69 boxes, total net weight declared: 775.30kg, total value declared: LKR 2,130,484/- was to be exported to Moscow via EK649 flight by an export company located at Negambo, Sri Lanka. Upon examination it was revealed that the shark specie inside is not the declared one (Black tip shark) instead it was Hemipristis elongate (Snaggletooth Shark). The specimen is listed as “vulnerable” in the global IUCN threaten category.
Exportation of this fish species is a violation of Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235) section 119. The goods were forfeited and penalty of LKR 20,000/- was imposed..
Sri Lanka customs has detained a container on 14.08.2020 at Export Facilitation Center, Colombo 13. After examination, it was found that 126.95 kg of Wallapatta (Gyrinops walla) and 144.6 kg of Sandalwood (Santhalum album), both worth of Rs.10 million (USD 53,500), that were concealed in boxes of vegetables and fruits in a 45 feet long reefer container. This is a violation of Customs Ordinance read with Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and Forest Ordinance.
Goods were forfeited and a penalty of Rs.3 million was imposed to the shipper.
This case was detected on 27.07.2020 by the Sri Lanka Customs cargo examination officers at Rank Container terminals (RCT) yard and Grayline II yard while examining 6 reefer containers(40") declared as dried sprats. Nearly 100,000 Kgs of frozen edible fish (Queen Fish & Marlin Fish) found which were stacked behind the sprat boxes. The containers were shipped from port of Dubai.
The investigation was concluded after imposing heavy penalties to the parties concerned.
Sri lanka Customs has forfeited 30kgs of slipper lobster on 26.07.2020 while attempting to export at Air Cargo Village Terminal Katunayake..
3 Boxes of Slipper Lobsters were packed and planned to shipped to Heathrow airport London with other 98 edible fish boxes. While Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division officers examine the shipment it was found that the exporter has failed to produce the license issued by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to export the lobster species.
This is a violation of Lobster Fisheries Regulation no 1123/2 of 2000.03.13, issued under Section 61 of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources Act no 2 of 1996.
The exporter was charged with LKR 30,000/- penalty and the production was handed over to the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency .
These Coins were detected at Bandaranaike International Airport on 24.02.2020 while an Australian national was trying to carry out to Singapore. 334 NOs of coins were found in possession of the passenger. Coins were examined by the BCNP officers and they suspected those coins have an archeological value. So 334 coins were detained by the officers and referred to Department of Archeology for their expert opinion.
As per the Report by the Archeological Department, it has been identified that the production of 334 coins are to be Antique and belongs to following periods.
Anuradhapura period - 150 coins
Portuguese Period - 10 coins
Dutch Period - 171 coins
British Period - 03 coins
Therefore, It is a violation of Sections 12, 44, 107 A (2) of the Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235)read with Antiques Ordinance No 09 of 1940 (Chapter 394) and Antiquities (Amendments) Act No. 24 of 1998 and hence the production is forfeited under the provisions of Customs Ordinance.
This Case was detected on 17.07.2020 at Air Cargo Export Terminal, Katunayaka. A shipment planned to HongKong contained 109.5 Kgs (5 BAGS) of dried fish gills (Spine tail Devil Ray – Mobula japonica, Sickle Fin Devil Ray –Mobula tarapacana) and 180.5 Kgs (11 bags) of fish maws have been forwarded for Customs examination.
Fish Gill of above two species are listed in Appendix II of CITES(Convention On International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
Exporter failed to produce CITES permit for Fish gills. So that is violation of fisheries regulations of Shark Fishery Management (High seas) Regulations, 2015 Gazette Extraordinary Number and dated Fish and Fishery Products, Export, Import and Re-export Management Regulations 2017.No. 2023/51 - 15.06.2017 declared under Fisheries and Aquatics Act No 02 of 1996.
This attempt of exportation violates Section 12 B and 44 of the Customs Ordinance. Therefor Production was forfeited and penalty of LKR 100,000 /- was imposed to the Exporter.
Wallapatta (Gyrinops walla) is an endemic plant and its perfumery value was identified very recently. It produces a resinous substance which fetches high price in other countries as it is used in the production of perfumes. Wallapatta is considered as a forest produce, hence exportation is restricted. Exportation without a valid forest permit is violation of Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235) read with Forest Conservation Ordinance. 625 g of Wallapatta (Gyrinops walla) oil concealed in 4 bottles has been detected at BIA departure Passenger terminal on 06th March 2020 while being attempted to smuggle out to Dubai by a Sri Lankan National. The production was forfeited and penalty of LKR 200,000/- was imposed.
This case was detected on 22.02.2020 at Air CargoExport Terminal,Katunayaka. A consignment of "Edible Fish" containing 11 boxes, total net weight declared: 112.30kg, total value declared: LKR 144,042/- was to be exported to Hong Kong via CX610 flight by an export company located at Kandana, Sri Lanka. In this consignment 02 boxes weighing 20 kg was declared as Cephalopholisspiloparaea fish species. Upon examination it was revealed that the species inside are not the declared one instead it was Cephalopholissonnerati which is a protected species, hence prohibited to be exported.Exportation of this fish species is a violation of Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235) read withThe Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act, No. 2 of 1996 and Extraordinary Gazette No. 2014/04 of 11.04.2017. Regulations made under this act/ gazette notification, No person shall catch, possess, transport, purchase, exhibit for sale, sell or export the fish species Thambuwa(Cephalopholissonnerati) within Sri Lanka or Sri Lanka Waters. The goods were forfeited and penalty of LKR 20,000/- was imposed.
Customs has detained and forfeited 23100 Kg of Australian Sandal Wood while attempting to export India without required permit.This detention was done during the COVD outbreak period.
Sri Lanka Customs detected illegal consignment of live Scorpions (202 No’s) which is attempt to export to China by a Chinese passenger at Bandaranaike International Airport , Katunayaka on 13.01.2020.Subsequent investigations were carried out and inquiry was held under Section 8(1) of the Customs ordinance (Chapter 235) and forfeited in terms of Section 12, 44,107(A) 2 of the Customs Ordinance read with Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Chapter 469).
Bio Diversity Cultural and National Heritage Protection Branch of Sri Lanka Customs(BCNP) has successfully thwarted illegal attempt by international crime syndicates while in the process of transshipment, large stock of Rosewood ( Dalbergia spp) logs alleged to have smuggled from an east African country. There are 3669 logs weighing 420 Metric tons valued at US $7,000,000, (LKR 1,000 millions). Detained containers are to be examined by Customs BCNP officers with the participation of DGC at Greyline II Customs examination terminal Grandpas.
Officers of BCNP of SL Customs had information that smuggling operations of Rosewood from African countries through sea routes passing Sri Lankan waters by international racketeers. Therefore during last two months period Officers of BCNP has been vigilant on suspected ship movements from African countries touching Sri Lankan ports en route to far eastern countries. With the reception of information of international origin officers intensified their surveillance and as a result they were able to locate four containers out of six containers given in that information and detection of additional 24 containers of same contraband from the same source making whole detection into 28 containers. .This achievement is one of the most difficult challenge encountered by international enforcement agencies so far. World Customs Organization (WCO) and International police organization (INTERPOL) United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has been trying for several years to tackle this international illegal activity without any result due to the support received by international criminal elements from some countries involved in this very lucrative business. Illegal trading of highly endangered trees like Rosewood, Ebony, Sandalwood and Red sanders is one of internationally banned activities like drugs trafficking, human smuggling and weapon business etc. International mafia movements and terrorist organizations are involved in these criminal activities. Therefore international enforcement agencies like WCO, Interpol and UNEP have deployed their resources and experts in most affected regions to support member countries to tackle these problems. The detection by S L customs is the largest detection ever made by any boarder agency against international illegal trade operations of Rose Wood .
Director General of Customs is empowered to enforce the law on any consignment (even transshipment)in accordance with powers vested on him by customs ordinance and international convention such as Convention on International Trading of Endangered Species (CITES) ,Montreal protocol ,Basel convention on movement of hazardous chemicals ,Stockholm agreement on weapons of mass destructions etc.
Agreement relevant to trading of Rose wood logs is CITES . Sri Lanka is signatory to this international convention. Rosewood happens to be in the appendix II of this Convention in which international trading is allowed only on permits issued by local authority concerned. Limited quantity is granted as an annual quota for source countries in order to restrict the heavy trading so that this rare tropical tree can be saved from over exploitation. In view of being signatory to CITES convention Sri Lanka Customs has an obligation to act on any information provided regarding illegal trading activities involving commodities listed in this convention.
Rosewood is considered as one of the most valuable tropical hardwood that is found in Madagascar, East Africa, and Brazil and south East Asian countries. Rose wood found in Madagascar has more demand than the same of other origins. This tree has very long maturity period nearly 300 years to become a tree having eight inches diameter. Felling rosewood trees for its timber has become environment issue in Madagascar and nearby east African countries threatening ecological balance of these countries and threat of extinction of this rare tree from their forest .Therefore cutting and trading of rosewood is banned in Madagascar. Destruction of precious tropical forest cover of Madagascar has become not only an environment issue but political and human welfare issue in that country still threatening the political stability of that highly bio diversity hot spot of the world. Rosewood has very high demand in international market for manufacturing high end furniture, musical instruments, ornaments etc.
This unprecedented detection was successfully made under the able direction of DGC Mr. Jagath P. Wijeweera, Director of Customs (Social Protection Directorate) Mr. M.Paskaran and Deputy Director of Customs BCNP branch Mr Samantha Gunasekare. Further investigations are carried out by team of officers attached to BCNP unit ,namely Superintendent of Customs R.D.A.M.G.Niyarepola, Deputy Superintendents of Customs Mr Jayalal Fernando, Ms Priyanthi Wijenayake and Assistant Superintendents of Customs Thilanka Samaraweera,Dilan Weerarathna,Shahan Jayasinghe,Daminda Jayasinghe,Ashanka Wanninayake,Gayan Wijayagunarathna,Samantha Pushpakumara and Kithsiri Atapattu and Customs Inspectors Chamindu Gayashan and Ms Ruwani Rupasinghe are actively engaged in assisting in investigation.
Officers attached to Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division (BCNP) uncovered an attempt to smuggle a consignment of live birds in to the country on 10.02.2012 The consignment included species which were vulnerable to avian influence as the birds were imported from the street market of Bangkok while the approvals for the consignment from relevant authorities were not available. After the customs inquiry conducted 121 birds were imported through this consignment was handed over to the Department of National Zoological Gardens after forfeiture Rs 450,000, penalty was imposed on the offender. Goods were valued at $1130 (Rs. 120,000) actual value is Rs. 13.6 million is a valuation fraud. This is a violation of Fauna & Flora Protection Ordinance and also quarantine approval from the Department of Animal Production & health and was given only for a part of the shipment.
Illegal transporting of Elephant Tusks Sri Lanka Customs was able to detain 359 numbers of elephant tusks, weighted 1.5 Metric tons. This shipment was scheduled to export from Kenya to Dubai, through Sri Lanka. The following photographs illustrate the views of detained consignment.They were declared as "Ploythene waste".
Attempt to smuggle out the “sandalwood” pieces concealed inside four (04) traveling bags of beetle leaves by a Pakistani national was detained by the officers of the Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division (BCNP) at departure terminal of the Bandaranaka International Airport, Katunayake. Total weighing of the Sandalwood amounted to 128.9 kg and was valued to be LKR 193,950.00. At the customs inquiry conducted, goods were forfeited and a penalty of LKR 100,00.00 was imposed on the offender since the said attempt is a violation of Fauna & Flora Protection Ordinance and Forest Ordinance.
An Indian who attempted to smuggle a rare species of Sri Lanka “Indian Pangolin”(Manis crasssicaudata) scutes weighing more than 02 kg to India was nabbed at the Bandaranayake International Airport (BIA) by the customs officers attached to Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division (BCNP), on 12/11/2012. Investigation revealed the suspect had traveled between India and Sri Lanka on hundred times during the past two years. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), it is prohibited to trade these endangered animals as the species included in Appendix I. Indian Pangolin was forfeited and a penalty of LKR 50,000.00 was imposed on the offender since the said attempt is a violation of Fauna & Flora Protection Ordinance and Forest Ordinance and Customs Ordinance.
Officers attached to the Biodiversity, Cultural and National Heritage Protection Division (BCNP) intercepted an attempt to export a consignment of live lobsters to Hong Kong without a valid license issued for the exportation by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources at Air Cargo Village, Katunayaka on 10.02.2012. The consignment included 999 live lobsters in 26 boxes weighing 486 Kg with a declared value of Rs 394,201.80. As per the information revealed at the Customs inquiry, about one third of the shipment contained lobsters which were less than the permitted size for exportation. Further, there were egg bearing live lobsters that are prohibited from exporting. As the said shipment violated the Customs Ordinance read with Lobster Fisheries Management regulations issued under Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act, the live lobsters were relaeased to the sea at the Port of Colombo. Further, the exporter was imposed a penalty of Rs.100,000.00.
In four occasions six Sri Lankans who attempted to smuggle out ancient coins, ornaments, and various other items of historical values belonging to the Polonnaruwa reign and periods of Dutch, Portuguese and British rule, by concealing in their baggage were arrested on 27/09/2012 at the Bandaranaike International Airport by the customs authorities. Attempted to smuggle 665 coins and jewellery foreign and local coins used in Polonnaruwa, Portuguese and Dutch periods. Ancient waist chains, necklaces, Rings, Pins used on women’s clothes, spoons and several more items were also among the items in custody. Above mentioned items was forfeited and a penalty of LKR 10,00.00 was imposed on the offenders Since, taking out the items out of the country which carry an archaeological value as determine by the Director General of the Department of Archeology, without the valid license/ permit issued by the said an authority is an offense in terms of the Customs Ordinance read with provisions of the Antiquities Ordinance.