Tuesday, March 18, 2008

King Diamond Incident-Overturned

What started in 2002 as one of the biggest hauls of shark fins in US waters and known in the eco community as the King Diamond Two Incident has ended this week in US courts with a stunning court reversal:

SAN DIEGO, 2002-Authorities seized a Hawaii-based fishing vessel with at least 12 tons of illegally harvested shark fins on board, the Coast Guard said yesterday.

The 82-foot King Diamond II, with a five-member crew, was stopped and searched about 350 miles southeast of Acapulco, Mexico, and towed to San Diego.

The crew of the Kind Diamond II, based in Honolulu, is suspected of buying shark fins from other fishing vessels while at sea in violation of a U.S. law adopted in 2000.

"Wasteful fishing practices can lead to devastation of vital living marine resources and economic hardship," said Dale Jones, the chief of law enforcement for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The ship was stopped by a U.S. Navy ship and searched by a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment on Aug. 13. It was towed to San Diego on Friday by a Coast Guard cutter.

Agents from the fisheries service were trying to determine the exact amount of shark fin stored in the hold, and the amount could be as high as 35 tons, said Paul Ortiz, a senior enforcement attorney for the fisheries service.

Today a San Francisco appeals court judge overturned the earlier ruling in a stunning upset for eco groups and law enforement, opening the way for a counter lawsuit by the shark finners against NOAA, the US Navy, and others involved with the original seizure :

The company, Tai Loong Hong Marine Products Ltd., in the summer of 2002 chartered an American cargo ship that picked up the 32 tons of shark fins from 20 other vessels on the high seas. The company's plan was to deliver the fins to Guatemala. U.S. Coast Guard officials boarded the ship, escorted it to San Diego and sought to confiscate the cargo, valued at $619,000, on the ground that the law had been violated. But the appeals court said the law doesn't give notice that a cargo ship would be considered a fishing vessel aiding in shark finning.