Hong Kong has become a haven for smuggling of endangered species because of lax work by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, says one of the world's major green groups. Greenpeace made its accusation after investigating how dried fish bladder, also known as maw, could enter and leave Hong Kong "without any hassle". Totoaba, an endangered species found in the Gulf of California in Mexico, face a growing threat as their highly-prized dried bladders sell for around HK$500,000 for 500 grams. Such trading is prohibited under an international convention. Vaquita, a rare species of porpoise that share the same waters as totoaba, are often accidentally caught in the nets used to poach totoaba. The vaquita faces imminent extinction as its population shrunk to just 57 last month. Greenpeace said the department had been treating the smuggling of endangered animals too lightly. While it reported its investigation of illegal maw trading in May, the department only stated it would follow up the case at a meeting with Greenpeace last Thursday. "The government said Hong Kong is a free trading port and smuggling is a natural phenomenon," said Gloria Chang Wan-ki, programme manager of Greenpeace East Asia. "[Officers] do not think Hong Kong is a hub, and do not think the situation is severe." Greenpeace also pointed out that most smuggled ivory and shark fins entered mainland China through Hong Kong. Chang said the department did not allocate enough money to enforcement. While it had earmarked around HK$31 million on work related to endangered species in 2014-2015, less than HK$3 million was spent on curbing smuggling. Among 266 prosecutions last year related to endangered species, Greenpeace said, more than half involved orchids, while ivory accounted for a quarter. Although anyone guilty of contravening the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance could be fined HK$5 million and jailed for two years, the harshest punishment handed out between 2010 and last year was a prison sentence of 10 months, while the minimum of fine of HK$100 was a fraction of the HK$1,500 penalty for littering. Chang said offences related to endangered species were often heard in magistrates' courts, which are limited to imposing fines of up to HK$100,000. "We hope the government can list smuggling of endangered species as organised crime and enforce deterring punishment," said Chang. She also called for more resources and awareness to be directed to frontline officers in identifying endangered species. The department said the government "strictly regulates the trades in all endangered species", and penalties in the current ordinance are considered "appropriate and reflected the importance Hong Kong attached to combating illegal trade". Customs said it would "spare no efforts to combat smuggling of endangered species". It would work closely with the department to strengthen information exchanges and heighten the alertness of frontline staff.