The bladders of this endangered fish sell for over $14K in Asia
AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field operations officers seized 1328 pounds (602 kilos) of Totoaba fish bladders inside 9 courier parcels delivered from Venezuela, destined to Hong Kong.
During a routine inspection of parcels at the Rafael Hernández International Airport a parcel manifested as "organic plastic samples” was selected for non-intrusive inspection. The inspection revealed what appeared to be animal matter and not plastic samples as manifested. For that matter shipment was placed on hold to perform further examination.
The inspection performed indicated that goods detained appeared to be Totoaba fish bladders.
“Smuggling of endangered species is a serious crime for which our officers remain vigilant,” stated Marcelino Borges, Director of Field Operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) inspector arrived on site accompanied by U.S. Department of Commerce National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA special agent whom inspected the goods indicated that goods were in violation to the Lacey Act and were falsely manifested and would be seized.
A total of 9 parcels were found to have the endangered fish remains. The parcels were seized and turned over to NOAA for final disposition.
The Totoaba fish is an endangered species thus protected and regulated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
According to various news outlets the Totoaba fish bladder sells between $7,000 and $14,000 in Asia, and soup prepared with this fish can sell for $25,000 in China. Furthermore, the international organization, Greenpeace, has identified that poaching of totoaba is also helping drive the extinction of a rare marine mammal, the vaquita, which has a tendency to get stuck in gillnets set for totoaba.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.