Louisiana men admit illegally fishing for shark fins

BELLE CHASSE (AP) — Two men have pleaded guilty to a Louisiana fishing violation after authorities said fins from hundreds of sharks were found aboard their vessel.

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says 37-year-old Rick Nguyen of Buras and 29-year-old Hung Anh Tiet of Dallas pleaded guilty Thursday to concealing illegal fish.

They were arrested in April after a state-federal patrol responding to complaints from recreational fishermen stopped the “Lady Lyanna” in Tiger Pass at Venice. The agents allegedly found 11 sharks on deck and fins from 518 more in a hidden bow compartment.

The daily commercial limit for the Gulf of Mexico is 33 sharks per vessel. Federal law forbids taking shark fins and dumping the body, a practice called “shark finning.”

Judge Kevin Connor fined each man $950, revoked their state shark permits and their set line licenses for life, and ordered them to have nothing to do with the shark business for two years.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigators are still looking into the case, spokeswoman Kim Amendola said. Because of that, she said, she cannot comment on possible charges.

State enforcement spokesman Adam Einck said federal prosecution was pending for allegations of shark finning and taking more than the daily limit.

Einck said 12 bags in the hidden compartment held 2,073 fins — about four per shark.

Many species of shark grow slowly, mature late and have relatively few babies. That can make them particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation, according to a NOAA report on shark finning. It said shark meat is generally not worth much but the fins used to make shark fin soup are among the most expensive fish products in the world.

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