Guilty plea entered in shark finning case

HONOLULU (AP) — A business that owns a Japanese fishing boat pleaded guilty Thursday in a case involving Indonesian crew members who cut fins from sharks.

Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd. agreed to pay a $126,000 fine and forfeit another $119,000 because of an investigation that found shark fins in crewmembers’ luggage in 2018.

It’s against U.S. law to remove the fins of sharks at sea. Prosecutors say the fishermen harvested fins from sharks that were still alive, then discarded their carcasses into the ocean. Fins are a pricey delicacy often used in soups.

Some of the fins were from oceanic whitetip sharks, which are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, prosecutors said. Other fins were from silky sharks and bigeye thresher sharks, which are also protected.

In 2018, 10 Indonesian fishermen working on the longline tuna-fishing vessel were arrested in Hawaii and charged with trying to smuggle nearly 1,000 shark fins from the U.S. to Indonesia.

The fishermen later pleaded guilty to a lesser, misdemeanor charge of knowingly attempting to export shark fins. A judge sentenced them to the five days they already served in jail.

They were headed home when airport security found shark fins in their luggage, according to court documents.

Last month, Hamada Suisan agreed to plead guilty to aiding and abetting the attempted exporting of the shark fins, according to court records. A lawyer representing the company entered the guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Thursday.