The proprietors of a Texas seafood restaurant are likely to face charges after investigators found nearly 400 illegally-possessed shark fins in the establishment’s refrigerator.
Bexar County game wardens assigned to the case found and confiscated the fins during a canine-aided inspection of the restaurant’s kitchen. According to a post on the Texas Game Wardens Facebook page, an additional cache of fins was found within the restaurant’s walk-in freezer.
“On April 13, 2022, Texas Game Wardens assigned to Bexar County and the K-9 Team performed an inspection of a local seafood restaurant in San Antonio, Texas,” the post reads. “During the inspection, Texas Game Wardens located 381 whole shark fins and an additional 29.2 pounds of frozen shark fins inside of the restaurant’s commercial freezer. [The] case is pending against the restaurant [and] owners, and all shark fins were seized as evidence.”
According to a local news report, the San Antonio seafood restaurant in possession of said fins has not been publicly identified as the case is still ongoing. No charges have been filed up to this point.
In 2015, Texas became the 10th U.S. state to ban the sale, trade, purchase, and transportation of shark fins—with a notable exception for “bona-fide” scientific research purposes.
The bill, signed by Gov. Greg Abbot, was meant to impede the growing global trend of “shark-finning.” This practice involves catching sharks with industrial trawling or longlining equipment for the express purpose of harvesting their fins. During a finning operation, sharks are hauled aboard and de-finned before being thrown back into the ocean to a slow and inevitable death.
The fins are often retained for use in a traditional dish known as shark fin soup. Some conservation groups blame finning operations for marked declines of shark populations around the world.
Kevin Winters was one of the officers involved in the investigation and the subsequent seizure of the illegal fins. He told the San Antonio-based KENS 5 News that he learned the restaurant may have been trafficking in shark products before the raid.
“I observed something that caught my interest and drew me in to go inspect that facility,” Winters told KENS 5. “We seized all the shark fin that was on site and informed them that we would be contacting the Bexar County’s District Attorney’s office and letting them know what’s going to take place from this point forward.”
According to Texas wildlife code, anyone found to be in possession of illegal shark fins is eligible for a class B misdemeanor. Penalties for such infractions can range from 180 days in county jail to a fine of up to $2,000.