Fishing boat owner pleads guilty in shark finning case

HONOLULU (AP) - A company that owns a Japanese fishing boat pleaded guilty Thursday in a case where Indonesian crew members cut sharks' fins.
Hamada Suisan Co. Ltd. agreed to pay a fine of $ 126,000 and forfeit another $ 119,000 after shark fins were found in crew members' luggage in 2018.
It is against US law to remove the fins from sharks at sea. Prosecutors say the fishermen harvested fins from living sharks and then dumped their carcasses in the ocean. Fins are an expensive delicacy that is often used in soups.
Some of the fins were from whitetip ocean sharks, which are classified as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, prosecutors said. Other fins came 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 accused of smuggling nearly 1,000 shark fins from the United States into Indonesia.
The fishermen later pleaded guilty to knowingly attempting to export shark fins. A judge sentenced them to the five days they had already served in prison.
They were brought home via Honolulu when security guards at the airport found shark fins in their luggage, court records show.
Last month, Hamada Suisan agreed to plead guilty to support and support the attempted export of the shark fins, according to court records. A lawyer representing the company was found guilty in the US District Court in Honolulu on Thursday. US District Judge J. Michael Seabright then imposed a sentence that included the agreed fine and the forfeited amount.
This is the biggest fine in a federal shark case, according to Marc Wallenstein, the U.S. assistant attorney.
The company, also known as Hamada Suisan Kabushiki Kaisha, said in a lawsuit that it had begun implementing the requirements of a corporate compliance plan that includes new training and increased cooperation with regulators to stop shark finning on its to prevent a remaining ship.
“HSKK is a relatively small Japanese fishing company and has suffered significant financial setbacks from COVID-19. HSKK has sold all but one of the fishing vessels and fired its fishing workers, ”said the company. "HSKK is currently in the process of deciding whether fishing should be stopped completely."

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