In late 2010, Sea Shepherd Brazil started an investigation into the illegal trade of elasmobranchs (a subclass that sharks, rays and skates) by the São Paulo General Warehousing and Centers Company (CEAGESP). Utilizing combined photographic and filmed evidence and technical reports, the marine conservation group presented a strong case to federal prosecutors in early 2011.
Recognizing that a crime against marine fauna had been committed, the information was forwarded from the federal prosecutor's office to the federal police, resulting in the seizure of 700kg of fish species in May 2011. The endangered Brazilian Guitarfish (Rhinobatos horkelli) was amongst the haul; it is included under the normative instruction number 05/2004 by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) – the body that oversees endangered and over-exploited species in Brazil.
The two companies behind the trade presented legal documents to substantiate the haul but failed to give a good explanation as to why they were in possession of a prohibited species. Subsequently, both companies are being subjected to IBAMA applied administrative sanctions and penalties. All material relevant to the case was seized and taken to the superintendent of the Federal Police in Sao Paulo.
The two owners of the company were also arrested and will respond to the extent of their participation in the crimes under Brazilian federal environmental crimes law 9605/1998. They can incur maximum penalties including a three-year prison sentence or fine.
Sea Shepherd Brazil launched their shark defense campaign in 2007, and since then, has been working diligently for the preservation of these key apex predators. Our projects have involved launching investigations and lawsuits against companies and individuals infringing on marine law, developing environmental education campaigns and raising awareness for sharks and rays so that they may be better protected in the future.
During a public federal senate hearing in July 2012, Sea Shepherd Brazil presented a petition requesting a halt to shark fishing along the Brazilian coastline for 20 years to allow exploited populations to recover. If our leaders are not pushed to intervene on behalf of these at-risk species, we run the risk of seeing our most vital marine eco-systems collapse before our very eyes.