California officials seize 970kg of illegal shark fins from critic of ban
Man who allegedly owns the products is an outspoken opponent of the state's ban on them
Associated Press in San Francisco
Wildlife officials in San Francisco have seized almost a ton of illegal shark fins from a vendor.
The vendor, Michael Kwong, 42, was accused of possessing 970kg of the fins, which violated a California ban that took effect last July, Lieutenant Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
Possessing shark fins, selling or trading them is a misdemeanour under California's law, and it would be up to a judge to determine any penalty, Foy said.
Investigators were led to Kwong during an investigation into a restaurant that was allegedly selling shark's fin soup.
"We consider this an extremely egregious violation of the law," Foy said. "We will work with San Francisco's district attorney and push the case forward."
A message left for Kwong at his business, Kwong Yip Inc, was not returned.
Kwong has been an outspoken opponent of the state's shark fin ban, and he was a member of a Chinese-American group that sued to challenge its constitutionality, Foy said.
Conservation groups have estimated that 73 million sharks are killed globally each year for their fins, which are often cut from the live animals.
Opponents of shark finning praised the bust.
"California's shark fin ban is critical to ending the cruel practice of shark finning, and to protecting sharks and ocean ecosystems for future generations," Jennifer Fearing of the Humane Society of the United States said.
"This important bust … sends a strong message that breaking California's animal protection laws has consequences."
Kwong insisted that the fins be kept refrigerated during the investigation, in the hope that he would get them back, Foy said.
The fins are often used to make shark's fin soup, a traditional Chinese dish.
Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington also have state bans on the possession or sale of shark fins, the Humane Society said.