First Major Enforcement of California Shark Fin Ban,
Over two tons confiscated from San Francisco Vendor and Major Opponent of State Law
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) —
Michael Kwong, of Kwong Yip Inc. a San Francisco trader, is the first major prosecution of violating California’s shark fin ban, for possessing over two tons of fins. Kwong was one of the most vocal opponents of the California Shark Fin Ban AB 376. In May 2015, he became the first major vendor to be prosecuted under the law.
Under Fish and Game Code (FGC) 2021, the law that prohibits possession of shark fin for sale, went into effect in 2011, but included a phase in period to allow restaurants and other businesses to sell off remaining stock. As of July 1, 2013, no person may possess shark fin for sale or trade in the state of California.
“The ocean community applauds the State Department of Fish and Wildlife officers and the judge for this arrest, seizure and enforcement of this important law protecting sharks,” said David McGuire, Director of the San Francisco non-profit Shark Stewards. “The shark fin trade contributes to the destruction of shark populations and marine ecosystems worldwide. We have information on other small scale violators, but this conviction is symbolic. This conviction, penalty and seizure of a huge quantity of fins sends a strong message to those who are still selling shark fins in California that they are breaking the law, and can be prosecuted.”
Operating on a tip, wildlife officers conducted an inspection on Kwong Yip, Inc. in San Francisco, and found what appeared to be shark fins for sale on the premises. They then cited Kwong for the violation. As part of the investigation, wildlife officers seized 2,138 lbs of fins and fin products believed to be shark fin.
He was ultimately charged with misdemeanor crimes for being in possession or selling frozen and processed shark fins, raw shark tails, and dried shark fins. He was also charged with possessing dried shark fins for display purposes. A Fish and Wildlife spokesman estimated that the shark fins could bring over $1,000,000 on the black market.
Mr. Kwong filed a motion to suppress the evidence challenging the inspection authority. said an inspector from the Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Judge Lillian Sing of the San Francisco Superior Court denied the motion and Kwong plead guilty in court.
He was ordered a 30 days jail sentence, 3 years probation, and forfeiture of all the shark fins seized.
As a major outspoken opponent of the state’s ban during the law’s passage, Kwong is a member the Asian American Rights Committee of California, whose members sued to challenge the constitutionality of the state ban. In light of Kwong’s citation and seizure of the shark fins, the group dropped its lawsuit following his citation.
“We must reduce this dangerous trade to save sharks from extinction. This law, and its enforcement in California is a major step in protecting the world’s sharks.” said McGuire.
According to the journal “Marine Policy”, 100 million sharks die each year for their fins to sup the fin trade for shark fin soup. Often, fishermen cut off the fins and dump the shark back into the ocean to bleed to death or drown. As a result, several species of shark are on the verge of extinction, and many others are rapidly becoming endangered.
The fins are used to make shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese dish and delicacy.
Sharks Stewards is a non profit dedicated to saving sharks and protecting critical marine habitat. A mechanism to report violators is located here.