Officials press charges for smuggling endangered fish

Calexico

Officials press charges for smuggling endangered fish

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CALEXICO, CA (13 On Your Side) - The U.S. District Attorney - along with Homeland Security - have arrested seven people for smuggling Totoaba, an endangered fish.

The fish's bladder alone sells for $10,000.    

Agents recently busted 73-year-old Song Shen Zhen, from Calexico, trying to smuggle 27 fish bladders hidden inside of his car.

Officers also found hundreds of fish bladders at his house with an estimated value of nearly $4,000,000.

Totoaba is a delicacy in Asian cultures - but is illegal to posses and sell in the U.S.     

"This is not something we've seen a lot of, so it was unusual," says Assistant Port Director at the Calexico Port of Entry, David Salazar. "With the vigilance of the officers, especially a couple of officers that are fisherman, they were able to realize that's illegal."

Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lisa Nichols says, "Even if people are currently seeing numbers of these out there, the problem is that they could be wiped out again very quickly and that's why this is so important to us."

If convicted, the seven Totoaba smugglers could spend up to 20 years in prison for smuggling an endangered species.