HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd., the owner of a Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, was charged in federal court Monday tied to the illegal trafficking of shark fins.
The charges of aiding and abetting the attempted export of shark fins stems from a November 2018 discovery of hundreds of fins in the possession of workers from the fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20.
According to the Department of Justice, the vessel’s Indonesian workers legally came to Hawaii to board flights out of the Honolulu International Airport. During routine TSA screenings of carry-on luggage, agents found some 962 shark fins within their bags, weighing in approximately 190 pounds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized the shark fins, which were valued at $57,850 on the black market.
[From the HNN archives: Fishermen caught trying to smuggle shark fins from Hawaii plead guilty]
Prosecutors say the Kyoshin Maru engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for about a year under a crew of officers who were Japanese nationals, and fishermen who were Indonesian nationals.
During that time, they’re accused of harvesting the fins of approximately 300 sharks.
The 10 fishermen who were caught with the fins have already agreed to plea deals. They were sentenced to five days in detention that was already served.
“Shark finning is inhumane, intolerable, and takes a very real toll on our precious ocean ecosystem,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price for the District of Hawaii. “My office is committed to combating this cruel practice by prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law anyone found to be trafficking in these types of shark fins.”
Some of the fins harvested were from oceanic whitetip sharks, which is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and protected under federal law.
Officials say other fins were from silky sharks and bigeye thresher sharks, which are also protected.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the oceanic whitetip shark population has declined by approximately 80-95% in Pacific waters since the mid 1990s.
The DOJ adds the charges are merely allegations and defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.