March 17, 2008 / 10:02 PM / in 10 years

In U.S. court fight, the shark fins win

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In the case of “United States of America v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins,” the shark fins have prevailed.

The lawsuit stemmed from the U.S. seizure of $618,956 worth of the fins, used in Asian soups, from the King Diamond II, an American vessel stopped about 250 miles off the coast of Guatemala in 2002.

The three-judge U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Monday the seizure of the 29,407 kg of fins was not legitimate because the ship was not actually a fishing vessel.

In shark finning, fishermen chop off the fins and dump the sharks back in the sea. A Hong Kong firm had bought the shark fins from other boats at sea.

According to a 2000 U.S. law, it is illegal for a “fishing vessel” to possess shark fins without the rest of the carcass. The Hong Kong firm, Tai Loong Hong, argued the boat was not a fishing vessel and was engaged only in trading.

“In the absence of any other indication in the statutes or the regulations, a vessel engaged in such trade has reason to believe that it is not subject to the possession prohibition as a fishing vessel,” the court said.

Reporting by Adam Tanner; Editing by David Storey

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