Sharks, the predators of the Oceans reproduce slowly. The worst crime would be to harvest female pregnant sharks, cut them open, take their babies and sell them.
This is what a gang of smugglers led by church priest has been doing. Kevin Thompson,the 48-year-old pastor of the Bay Area Family Church in San Leandro and the poaching ringleader, was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of U.S. $100,000. Five other people were convicted in the two-year investigation and were ordered to pay a combined total of $310,000.
Lisa Nichols, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in San Diego, California, said:
We estimate anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 sharks have been collected over the last decade.
Fines totaling nearly a million U.S. dollars are to result in Habitat Protection for leapord sharks . The leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata, is a hound shark found in the coastal waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, along the coast of North America from Oregon to Baja California. Over the span of more than a decade, the smugglers had pulled thousands of baby leopard sharks from the waters near San Francisco, California. The animals were sold alive to pet stores and private buyers throughout the United States and abroad.
John Ugoretz, environmental program manager for the California Department of Fish and Game, said:
They’re not just illegally taking one animal, but potentially impacting future generations by pulling all of those babies out of the environment and not giving them a chance to survive.
Plight of the Sharks
The sharks, which are at risk because they are often caught unintentionally in fishers’ nets, are a prized species in the home aquarium trade. Pups can fetch up to $240 each in a pet store. The species is also actively sought by sport fishermen in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Monterey Bay for its tender, flavorful flesh. The sharks have an average life span of 25 to 30 years but do not start reproducing until they are 7 to 13 years old. Females give birth to anywhere from 20 to 36 live pups at a time. Baby leopard sharks, which are tan with large dark spots, are highly sought after by fish collectors. These sharks often die young in home aquariums and if released cannot fend for themselves.
The judgment is sound but it comes a bit late since the region’s supply of leopard sharks has dried up.
Source: National Geographic