Fishermen Busted Trying To Smuggle 962 Shark Fins Through Honolulu International Airport

In November, 10 Indonesian fishermen working on a Japanese longline vessel made international news after being caught at Honolulu Airport on Oahu with 962 shark fins in their luggage. The possession of shark fins in the state of Hawaii was made illegal in 2010. It was the first state in the USA to pass such law.

Indonesian fishermen are frequently hired on longline vessels, including Hawaii's fleets. A loophole allows them to be paid extremely poorly and the industry is rife with human rights violations. These fishermen had been working on the Japanese flagged longline vessel Kyoshinmaru #20 throughout the last year. In early November, 18 Indonesian fishermen boarded a water taxi in international waters twelve miles offshore Oahu to meet a vessel agent from a Honolulu-based marine navigation corporation who was hired to aid the fishermen in their return home to Indonesia. The agent then brought them to Pier 36 in Honolulu to meet with U.S. Customs And Border Control who granted the 14 of the 18 fishermen without visas a Parole To Depart which allowed them to temporarily enter the US to under the condition they leave promptly.

The fishermen were placed under the supervision of the vessel agent who took them to Honolulu International Airport to board their flight home. That's when 30 pieces of the fishermen's checked luggage were pulled for further inspection. 13 of them contained a total of 190 pounds (89 kilograms) of shark fins. Those pieces of luggage were checked in under 10 of the 18 fishermen's names. The fins were seized and all 18 fishermen were taken in for questioning where they told authorities a number of things.

One knew shark fin possession was illegal in Indonesia but denied knowing they were illegal in the US. Another admitted to giving shark fins to some of the other fishermen to bring back to Indonesia "for their families."

They also talked about the manner in which the fins were acquired. One fishermen told authorities that they cut the fins off of live sharks and threw the bodies back while aboard the vessel. Another said he knew it was against the law to sell shark fins and that the sharks were a protected species, but he ate the sharks while aboard the fishing vessel, not wanting the rest of the shark to go to waste.

One of the fishermen without shark fins in his luggage informed authorities he had known it was illegal to possess them for a long time but he was not sure if the other fishermen knew or why they took such a risk.

All fishermen are currently being held on Oahu for further court hearings. They're not allowed to leave the island nor discuss the case with each other.

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