A Brooklyn seafood distributor has paid a $10,000 fine in the first successful prosecution under the state's year-old shark fin ban, state environmental officials announced Monday.
Long Quan Seafood Corp. pleaded guilty June 22 to felony commercialization of wildlife on June 22 in Brooklyn Criminal Court and paid the fine for trafficking in shark fins, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.
A large shipment of dried shark fins was flagged in October by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which alerted the DEC to its arrival at Kennedy Airport, state officials said.
In July 2014, the state banned the possession, sale and distribution of most species of shark fins, mostly used for shark fin soup in Asian restaurants and households, and when authorities tested fins in the Kennedy shipment, they found protected species of sharks, including hammerhead, blacktip reef and grey sharpnose, the DEC said.
The shipment originated in Hong Kong, but the distributor claimed it came from South Africa, where some of the shark species identified are not present, state officials said.
Long Quan's owner, Candy Tang, said she had ordered fins from another type of fish, one that is legal to import, and she had no idea shark fins were in the shipment.
"I was shocked," she said.
She sold shark fins in the past, she said, but stopped after the ban.
Tang said she asked to test the fins herself also, but the government refused to grant her access to the shipment. "It's not fair," she said.
Across the world, many fishermen target sharks just to get their fins, which can be lucrative but also depletes various shark species. In a practice known as "finning," they slice off just the fin from a live shark and throw the shark back into the water. Without the fin, the shark cannot swim and pass water across its gills, so it dies from suffocation or blood loss.
An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year to supply the growing global demand for their fins, DEC officials said. In December 2013, China's ruling Communist Party announced a ban of expensive alcohol, shark fin soup and other luxuries at official receptions as part of the leadership's crackdown on corruption and use of public funds for expensive, controversial products.
"Not only is the practice of finning a shark inhumane, but it negatively impacts the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem," DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman said. "We will not tolerate shark fin trafficking in New York State."