Coast Guard Cutter Tybee arrived in San Diego, Ca. on Friday escorting the King Diamond II, a Honolulu-based, 82-ft. fishing vessel with 12 tons of prohibited shark fins onboard.
A Coast Guard law enforcement detachment operating from a U.S. Navy ship boarded the King Diamond II approximately 350 miles southeast of Acapulco on the afternoon of August 13 and seized the vessel after discovering the illegal shark fins. The Coast Guard Cutter Chase arrived on scene on August 15 and took custody of the vessel, its crew and the catch. The Coast Guard law enforcement detachment returned to the Navy ship, which continued its patrol, and Chase began its escort of the King Diamond II toward San Diego. On August 21, Coast Guard Cutter Tybee took custody and completed the transit with the King Diamond II.
The 12 tons of shark fins aboard King Diamond II began
to decay after the cold storage system on the vessel failed during transit.
"The U.S. Coast Guard
is committed to catching and bringing to justice those who plunder our marine resources," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Carter, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area. "This case should serve as a warning to those who incorrectly assume that the Coast Guard’s resolve to conduct fisheries enforcement at sea has been lessened by the increase in our maritime homeland security operations."
The Coast Guard worked closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Office of Law Enforcement to terminate the voyage of King Diamond II. Upon arrival in San Diego, NOAA Fisheries agents took possession of the shark fins and interviewed the captain and crew as part of an ongoing investigation. The case will be referred to the NOAA Office of General Counsel for a determination on whether charges should be brought and what penalties may be assessed after the investigation is complete. The shark fins are being treated as evidence and will be kept in cold storage until the appropriate disposition is determined.
The purchasing, landing or possession of shark fins without shark carcasses is a violation of the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA). The SFPA was enacted Dec. 21, 2000, and is intended to eliminate the wasteful and un-sportsmanlike practice of shark finning by U.S. and foreign fishermen. Penalties under the SPFA can reach $120,000 for each violation, as well as forfeiture of both the shark fins and fishing vessel.
The SFPA also requires the United States to seek international cooperation in shark conservation efforts to ensure effective management of this important species. Spain has already enacted a similar law, and the European Commission is currently considering a shark-finning ban for its members.
"We are committed to the conservation of marine resources through effective enforcement actions like this," said Dale Jones, chief of law enforcement for NOAA Fisheries. "Wasteful fishing practices can lead to devastation of vital living marine resources and economic hardship for those who rely on the long-term, sustained use of these resources."