|5 charged with shark poaching|
Posted by on February 10, 2006 at 00:05:19:|
In Reply to: Poachers charged in Leopard shark case posted by Max Bottomtime on February 09, 2006 at 15:05:46:
Five men, including a Bay Area pastor, have been charged with illegally catching thousands of undersized California leopard sharks in San Francisco Bay and conspiring to sell them to pet shop distributors, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
The sharks are found in coastal waters from Baja California to Oregon. The species is protected by a 1994 state law that prohibits commercial catches of juvenile leopard sharks shorter than 36 inches, in order to let them live in the wild long enough to reproduce and maintain healthy stocks. Selling wildlife with the knowledge that it was captured illegally is a federal crime.
A federal grand jury indictment, issued Jan. 24 and unsealed Tuesday after the men were arrested, accuses them of conspiring to harvest young sharks from the bay and sell them to distributors in the pet trade across the United States and in Europe. About 465 of the sharks were actually sold, prosecutors said.
During the two-year investigation, 19 baby sharks were confiscated by federal and state wildlife agents in Illinois and brought to an aquarium to be returned to California, prosecutors said. Nine were released into Monterey Bay in the summer of 2004, three are on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the other seven died.
The defendants were identified as Kevin Thompson, 48, of San Leandro, pastor at the Bay Area Family Church and co-owner of at least one fishing boat; Vincent Ng, 43, of Oakland, owner of Amazon Aquarium in Alameda; Ira Gass, 53, a marine aquarium dealer from Azusa (Los Angeles County); John Newberry, 34, of Hayward, an aquarium employee; and Hiroshi Ishikawa, 36, of San Leandro, a fisherman.
A sixth defendant, Sion Lim, 39, of San Leandro, owner of Bayside Aquatics in Oakland, was charged with a single count of illegally selling juvenile leopard sharks.
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