HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fishermen accused of trying to smuggle nearly 1,000 shark fins out of Hawaii changed their plead in court Friday to guilty.
Federal investigators say the 10 Indonesian nationals were caught last month after trying to sneak the shark fins through Honolulu’s airport.
They were all working aboard the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel Kyoshin Maru and were part of an extensive shark fining operation.
“There are about 962 shark body parks or shark fins, which were recovered in this case alone, which is pretty significant in and of itself. We also know the company has three shipping vessels," said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price.
The judge issued all the crew members a $25 special assessment, but they won’t have to go back to jail because of the time they already served.
Earlier this week, authorities also charged the owner of the ship and its officers in connection with the smuggling operation.
The captain, fishing master and first engineer of the vessel were charged with aiding and abetting the unlawful smuggling and trafficking of shark fins.
A defense lawyer said the fishermen provided key testimony in that case.
“They were fishermen on the ship and they were following instructions of the Japanese fishing master," said Jefferson Willard, an attorney for one of the fishermen.
Investigators said the crew of the vessel harvested fins from about 300 sharks in the South Pacific.
Some were still alive when they were thrown back into the ocean.
The case comes eight years after Hawaii became the first state to ban possession of shark fins. The following year, the federal government strengthened its existing ban and the trade largely went underground near Hawaiian waters.