Members of a fishing vessel have been charged with harvesting sharks for the fin of it. More from the Department of Justice:

HONOLULU – The owner and officers of a Japanese-flagged fishing vessel were charged in federal court today with aiding and abetting the trafficking and smuggling of 962 shark fins into and out of Hawaii on Nov. 7, 2018. 

According to court documents and information presented in court, the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for approximately one year. 

 The officers were Japanese nationals, and the fishermen were Indonesian nationals. During the voyage, the fishermen harvested fins from approximately 300 sharks, in some instances while the sharks were stunned but still alive, and discarded the finless carcasses into the ocean, all under the supervision of the Captain, and at the direction of the Fishing Master and First Engineer. The Captain, Fishing Master, First Engineer, and many of the Indonesian fishermen all kept shark fins to take home with them.

On or about November 6, 2018, the Kyoshin Maru traveled to a location near Honolulu, Hawaii, but more than 12 miles from shore, where it met a water taxi that had been arranged by a Vessel Agent from a local marine navigation corporation. 

The Indonesian fishermen disembarked the Kyoshin Maru and boarded the water taxi. The Kyoshin Maru then left for Japan with the Captain, Fishing Master, and First Engineer onboard, still in possession of shark fins. Meanwhile, the Indonesian fishermen traveled to Pier 36, where they legally entered the United States for the purpose of traveling to Honolulu International Airport, in order to board previously-ticketed flights to Indonesia.

During routine screening, officers with the Transportation Security Administration discovered shark fins in checked luggage. Upon discovering the shark fins, TSA immediately notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined the checked luggage belonged to 10 of the Indonesian fishermen and included approximately 190 pounds of shark fins, which is 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. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the oceanic white tip 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 10 Indonesian fishermen were subsequently charged and are currently released on pretrial supervision. The criminal complaint brings charges against five additional defendants: Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd, the Japanese business that owned and operated the vessel; JF Zengyoren, a Japanese fishing cooperative to which the vessel belonged; Hiroyuki Kasagami, the Captain of the vessel; Toshiyuki Komatsu, the Fishing Master of the vessel; and Hiroshi Chiba, the vessel’s First Engineer. The three Japanese nationals charged were not arrested because they never entered the United States, and they remain at large, presumably in Japan. 

The charges include four counts of aiding and abetting violations of the Lacey Act; three counts of aiding and abetting the Smuggling of Goods Into the United States; and four counts of aiding and abetting the attempted Smuggling of Goods From the United States. The two corporate defendants each face a maximum fine of $500,000 per count, or $5.5 million.

United States 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. 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. 

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