Brazilian company accused of killing 280,000 sharks for fins

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A conservation watchdog Monday accused a Brazilian company of illegally fishing 280,000 sharks which were killed to feed Asia's appetite for sharkfin.

The Environmental Justice Institute, a Brazilian group, lodged a suit against seafood exporter Sigel do Brasil Comercio demanding 800 million dollars in environmental damages.

"As we can't put a value on life, we have calculated the impact on the ecosystem," the director of the group, Cristiano Pacheco, told AFP.

He said the killing of so many of the predators would have a negative effect on the balance between maritime species.

The company caught the sharks off the northern Brazilian state of Para between March 2009 and May 2010, according to information from the Brazilian state environmental agency Ibama given to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

"We think the sharkfins were exported clandestinely, in containers, likely from the ports of Rio Grande do Sul to the Asian market," Pacheco said.

The high value Asian diners place on sharkfin means the rest of the shark was often thrown back into the sea in violation of environmental regulations, Ibama said.