Imitation shark fin soup has become more popular with the increased awareness of the controversial harvesting of sharks for their fins. Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons by NeoBatFreak.
United States federal authorities announced Thursday they charged 12 individuals in a scheme to smuggle more than 10,000 pounds of shark fins from Mexico to Asia, Hong Kong News reports.
Authorities also confiscated nearly $8 million in cash, jewels and precious metals.
The indictment alleges that the defendants, most of whom are Asian, launched the scheme in 2013 to distribute marijuana in the United States and shark fins in Hong Kong. The defendants also allegedly formed “front businesses” in California and Florida.
My Panhandle.com reported federal agencies have also raided a local seafood wholesaler thought to be related to the case. The business claims it only helped store the fins and believed the operation legitimate.
According to Hong Kong News, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine of Georgia’s Southern District said the investigation began five years ago in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It dismantled “a major conspiracy,” he said.
“This operation is about much more than disrupting the despicable practice of hacking the fins off of sharks and leaving them to drown in the sea to create a bowl of soup,” Christine said in a news conference.
The shark fins were likely to have been harvested through “finning,” a legal but controversial method that cuts the fin off the living shark and dumps it back into the ocean to die.
The Mercury News reports that shark fins have more value than sharks themselves, with 70 million per year being poached. The fins are considered a delicacy food item used in soup and traditional Chinese medicine.
The individuals charged operated defendants and companies Serendipity Solutions and Phoenix Fisheries, which falsified documents and violated wildlife laws.
“In furtherance of the conspiracy, the conspirators committed and caused
to be committed in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere,” the indictment stated, “financial transactions affecting interstate commerce, using funds which were, and which the defendants knew to be, proceeds of the unlawful conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.”
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story.