Owner of Fishing Vessel Charged with Unlawful Trafficking of Shark Fins

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Aug. 31. 2020 — Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd., the owner of a Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, was charged in federal court with aiding and abetting the attempted export of shark fins out of Hawaii in violation of the Lacey Act, the Department of Justice announced in August.

The charge arose from the November 2018 discovery of approximately 962 shark fins, weighing approximately 190 pounds, from the checked luggage of fisherman working aboard the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20. The Kyoshin Maru had engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for approximately one year prior, utilizing a crew of officers who were Japanese nationals and fishermen who were Indonesian nationals. In the course of the voyage, crew members harvested fins from approximately 300 sharks.

On or about Nov. 6, 2018, the Kyoshin Maru traveled near Hawaii, and its Indonesian crew members legally entered the United States in order to board return flights departing from Honolulu International Airport. During routine screening, Transportation Security Administration officers discovered the shark fins in 10 of the fishermen’s checked luggage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized the shark fins, which it later determined were worth as much as $57,850 on the black market.

Some of the shark fins were from oceanic whitetip sharks, which are listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international convention with over 180 parties, including the United States, Japan, and Indonesia. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the oceanic whitetip shark has declined by approximately 80-95 percent across the Pacific Ocean since the mid-1990s. Other fins were from silky sharks and bigeye thresher sharks, which are also protected under the CITES Convention.

The charge filed today accuses Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd. of unlawfully trafficking shark fins. U.S. laws prohibit, within U.S. jurisdiction: the removal of any fins of any shark at sea; the possession of such fins aboard a fishing vessel that are not attached to the corresponding carcass, and; the transfer or landing of any such detached fin. Some of these laws implement U.S. obligations under international conventions. In addition, the laws of the State of Hawaii make it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins. Due in part to the over-harvest of sharks, some species of shark — including three species found among the fins at issue in this case — are protected under the CITES Convention.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and; the U.S. Coast Guard. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc A. Wallenstein, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii, and Senior Counsel for Wildlife Programs Elinor Colbourn, Environmental Crimes Section, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The prosecution team is coordinating with the U.S. Department of State on this matter.

Video: Zipline

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We didn’t get to take a vacation this summer because of everything going on, so decided to post highlights of a zipline tour on our trip to Wisconsin a few years ago. It involved a lot of sun and a lot of stair climbing.



Photo: License plate

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Butterfly on my license plate. (C)2020 J.S.Reinitz

Apocalypse Mall

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Sign of the apocolypse: Alcohol abuse

 I had to touch base with our tax preparer, and the outfit is located at one of the local shopping malls, which has been decimated by a decade of online shopping and Walmart.

Even with the pandemic, my take was that the mall is a safe place despite the edict against gatherings of 10 people of more. 

I was met by a notice on the door that mall walking was prohibited because of the virus. Apparently, the mall would meet the definition of a “health club” if people were walking around inside, and health clubs are closed under state order.

Also apparently banned — mall sleeping. The guards caught a guy who took advantage of the closures to take a nap in a sleeping bag a few days earlier.

Inside, only the tax place and a clothing store were open (since closed). Maybe At Home — the lights were on, but the glass doors were closed. The mall is usually at less than 50 percent occupancy, but this was surreal. It was hard to tell the difference between the stores that had been shuttered for months from the ones closed because of the upcoming outbreak.

Growing up in the ’80’s, malls were a focal point, more so for me because I lived a block from one. When I got bored, I simply walked over, walked around. The mall was also a de facto refuge a few years back when a massive ice storm knocked out power to parts of the city. People left their frozen homes a hung out at the mall to soak up some warmth and let their kids run around in the play area. 

No such natural disaster camaraderie this time.  

I did a quick lap around the mall taking it all in, trying to not be noticed by the two security guards. I couldn’t help but think the security industry will be booming. So much closed property to be guarded until the virus blows over.

Paper Apocalypse

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  The apocalypse started with toilet paper.

Actually, it started with germs half way around the world, but for most Americans, it didn’t become real until the Charmins began disappearing off the shelves of their favorite big box stores.

Sure, there was news of China shutting down entire cities and locals stuck on cruise ships that were quarantined upon entering port. But our leaders were downplaying it, making fun of it, calling it a hoax.

Not long after that, cases and deaths started popping up in distant states inside the union, then in nearby states and finally in home states…

My teen son loads groceries part time at the local Big Box, and he told tales of people buying cases of toilet paper and pallets of bottled water.

The onset of the toilet paper panic hit just as spring break was staring for the kids. I already took the week off to hang out with them, so I was at a safe distance while work struggled with how to function in the pandemic. The CDC guidelines are to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, and my take is that work would be a safe place because corporate cuts had already throughly decimated our staff.

My plans for spring break had been modest. Drag the kids out once a day for a little fun. We don’t have any money in the budget for travel, and my wife is working through to figure out some computer coding. But everything is closed. No movies, no museums, The indoor pool closed. The restaurants only have carry out, if they are open at all. And it’s the Midwest, where spring is called “second winter.” Nothing to do outside. It actually snowed on the first day of the break, and it’s been cold and rainy ever since.

I was able to score a four-pack of off-brand paper at a downtown gas station that was immune to the hype a few days in. There were two on the shelf, but I only bought one. Only as much as we reasonably need.

The Big grocery store still hasn’t been able to keep it in stock. Yesterday, I dropped by the small, independent neighborhood grocery — the one with the healthy selection of Eastern European and Pacific Island and Southeast Asia fare. They had paper, but not on the shelves. I had to ask for it at the register. And then they only sell it one pack at a time. As the clerk went to the locked cabinet to retrieve it, she told me there was almost a fight over the stuff the previous day.

Photo: Tracks in the snow

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(c)2020 J.S.Reinitz

Man arrested for smuggling endangered birds

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From the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont:

 Jafet Rodriguez, 39, of Hazleton Pennsylvania, has been charged with unlawfully smuggling tropical birds into Vermont from Canada, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the federal anti-smuggling statute. 

photo courtesy US Department of Justice

According to court documents, the Government alleges that on December 30, 2019, at 10:30 A.M., the defendant walked across the Canadian border near the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, Vermont and approached a car parked in Stanstead, Quebec.

 According to the Government’s allegations, the defendant retrieved a black duffle bag containing the birds from the vehicle parked in Quebec and then walked back into the United States. United States Border Patrol Agents intercepted Rodriquez after he entered another vehicle (with Pennsylvania license plates) in Derby Line, Vermont. The agents recovered seven live tropical birds from this vehicle. 
According to court records, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory determined that five of the birds were Yellow-headed Amazons (Amazona oratrix) and two birds were White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster). 

These birds are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (commonly referred to as “CITES”). Under the Endangered Species Act, species which are protected under CITES cannot be imported without the appropriate permits. The birds were turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and transported to the New York Animal Import Center in Rock Tavern, New York for a period of quarantine. 

Man shoots bear in self defense, sentenced for taking claws

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  MISSOULA—A Marion man who admitted illegally transporting grizzly bear claws to Washington after shooting the bear in the Bob Marshal Wilderness in 2017 was sentenced today to three years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bryan Berg, 35, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Jan. 16, 2020, for illegal transportation of grizzly bear claws, a Lacey Act Violation.

The prosecution said in court records that law enforcement received a tip in September 2017 that Berg shot a grizzly bear, which is a threatened species, in the Hart Basin area of the Bob Marshal Wilderness in Montana. Agents flew to the scene and found a dead grizzly bear that was pushed down the mountain. The bear’s front claws had been removed.

In an interview with law enforcement officers in March 2018, Berg said he shot the grizzly bear in self-defense, which the investigation confirmed to be accurate. Berg, however, did not report the grizzly bear shooting as required by law. Berg then removed the claws and took them to Washington. 

Berg cannot legally possess or transport the claws. Berg knew that taking the grizzly bear claws was illegal and turned them over to law enforcement during the interview. Berg also provided law enforcement with photographs and video of him near the grizzly bear after the shooting.

Ancient points returned to museum

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recovered projectile points. Photo courtesy ICE

 PROVIDENCE – An historic collection of 34 stone projectile points, some determined to be more than 1,000 years old, were returned Jan. 15, 2020, to Rhode Island’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology more than 30 years after they first vanished from the museum’s collections.
The stone projectile points, used primarily for hunting, were unearthed by Harrie M. Wheeler, a noted Rhode Island collector and amateur archeologist, during excavations that he conducted between 1928 and 1950 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Harrie M. Wheeler, a Rhode Island native with a passion for pre-Columbian archaeology and anthropology, sold part of his collection of artifacts to Rudolf F. Haffenreffer Jr. in 1928 for the sum of $1,000. Haffenreffer was a local brewer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who subsequently founded the museum that bears his name, and that became a part of Brown University in 1955 following his death. A second set of artifacts gathered by Wheeler, including the stone projectile points returned today, were acquired by the Museum in 1985.

Two years later, in 1987, the Museum’s assistant curator noticed that the stone projectile points, along with a number of other items, were missing. They were reported stolen to Brown University and Bristol Police. While a number of the stolen items surfaced over the course of the next three decades at flea markets or private sales, the fate of this particular group of missing artifacts remained a mystery until early 2019, when an adroit observer noticed a listing on eBay offering a “collection of museum quality arrowheads” for sale for $500.

The listing included photos, one of which showed the stone projectile points in their original display box, bearing a label reading: “Arrowheads from a Rhode Island Archaeological dig in East Greenwich, Kent County, Rhode Island, 1928-1950, Ex Wheeler Collection, Haffenreffer Museum, All Authentic.”

One of the items was marked with the number “85-827,” which matched the Haffenreffer’s catalog number for the artifacts. Contacted by the individual who first observed the listing, curators at the Haffenreffer reached out to the Brown University and Bristol Police Departments, who in turn requested the assistance of HSI. Federal investigators were able to quickly locate the eBay seller, secure the items, and confirm their provenance.

Based on the investigation by HSI special agents who worked on the case, it was discovered an eBay seller acquired the stone projectile points for a case of wine from an individual who listed them on Craigslist. HSI’s investigation, and efforts to determine the whereabouts of other items stolen from the Haffenreffer collection in 1987 remains ongoing, and anyone with potentially relevant information is urged to contact the HSI Tip Line at (866) 347-2423.
Using a provision of federal law that allows the government to recover stolen goods that travel across state lines, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island filed a lawsuit to forfeit the stone projectile points. Following completion of that lawsuit, and a review of Brown’s petition for return of the projectile points to the Museum, federal authorities today were able to return them to where they properly belong.

Occult hand

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(C) 2017 J.S. Reinitz


I was looking through some old photos and came across this panorama shot of vintage WWII aircraft from a fly-in at the local airport. I had never noticed the dismembered hand artifact floating in the air before. These type of anomalies pop up when doing panorama and other types of layered photography.

As an aside, this photo was taken in July 2017. The B-17 Flying Fortress at the left crashed during a fly-in in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 2019.

IMG_5693 edit

(C) 2017 J.S. Reinitz

Pumpkin Cannon vs School Bus  

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Happy Halloween !

First looted art repatriation to Libya

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photo courtesy Amanda Mason, ICE

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations International Operations Division Chief Leo Lin returned a sixth century marble statue known as the “Head of a Veiled Woman,” during a repatriation ceremony at the Libyan Embassy, Thursday.

The repatriation marks the first reparation ceremony between Libya and the United States.

The return of the statue was the culmination of an 11-year investigation led by HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Arts and Antiquities Unit, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In June 2008, HSI New York initiated a cultural property investigation in response to information indicating that looted antiquities were shipped to the United States from Dubai. The investigation revealed an antiquities dealer illegally shipped 50 items of cultural property originating from various nations to major museums, galleries and art houses in New York City.

In August 2008, HSI seized the Libyan marble statue during its shipment from the Dubai-based antiquities dealer to a collector in Queens, New York. The seized statue is the fragmented head of a veiled woman statue that is measured 13 inches tall by 10 inches wide. Ongoing efforts in this investigation led to the identification of several key players in a transnational criminal organization, engaging in the illicit trafficking of cultural antiquities.


photo courtesy Amanda Mason, ICE

The statue originated in the ancient city of Cyrene, Eastern Libya, and is part of the rich cultural heritage amongst the Libyan community.

In February 2018, Libya signed a historical memorandum of understanding with the United States to protect Libya’s cultural property from illegal smuggling and highlight the principle that culture truly unites people.

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