SAN ANTONIO – Texas Game Wardens say they discovered a large number of shark fins at a San Antonio seafood establishment on Wednesday during a routine inspection.
According to a Facebook post, 381 whole shark fins were discovered, along with 29.2 pounds of frozen shark fins inside the restaurant’s commercial freezer.
Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told KSAT that the routine inspection was intended to “determine the source of aquatic resources” for the restaurant.
Texas Game Wardens did not name the restaurant, citing an ongoing investigation.
“Currently, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. As Texas’ conservation law enforcement agency, game wardens enforce state law for the protection and preservation of wild animals and wild spaces,” said a TPWD spokesperson.
“As an apex predator, sharks are critical to oceanic ecosystems. They maintain the food chain and serve as an indicator species. Between 70 to 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins,” the TPWD spokesperson told KSAT.
In June 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that made the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in Texas illegal.
“The buying, selling, transport or possession of shark fin for the purpose of sale is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with up to 180 days in county jail and/or up to $2,000 fine,” TPWD said.
Prior to the law, fins could still be imported and exported despite shark finning being illegal in U.S. waters.
“When they cut off the fins, the shark is still alive, and then only 1 to 5 percent of the shark even gets used,” Vice President for U.S. Oceans at Oceana Jacqueline Savitz said after Abbott signed the bill. “The bodies of the shark are then thrown back into the ocean, only to drown, starve or die a slow death.”
Aside from its legality, some consider shark finning to be cruel.
“If they do not have their fins, then they would just sink to the bottom of the ocean and they would not be able to breathe,” Krissy Podczerwinski said.
Podczerwinski is the senior aquarist at Sea World San Antonio.
“It is important for the sharks to have all of their fins. Their pectoral fins help them steer while they are swimming in the ocean, and their dorsal fins help them stay stable and upright,” she said.
At Sea World San Antonio, guests can learn about seven different species of sharks.
“Some species cannot survive if they’re not swimming,” Podczerwinski said. “They have to be swimming to move the water over their gills in order for them to breathe.”
Podczerwinski said the small size of the fins pictured is also concerning.
“Sharks do not reach reproduction until very late in life, so they have to wait about 10 or more years,” Podczerwinski said. “So, that’s why it’s so important to have these sharks reproducing and growing up”
“Sharks are very valuable. They are the clean-up crew of the ocean. So, if there’s a sick or dying animal feed is going to go out there and clean up that animal. Clean up the ocean and then go back to their business,” she said.