SAN ANTONIO – A report obtained by KSAT Investigates has finally revealed the name of the San Antonio establishment at the center of a Texas Game Wardens shark fin investigation last spring as Broadway staple Van’s Restaurant.
In April, Texas Game Wardens announced they had seized 381 whole shark fins and 29.2 pounds of frozen shark fins during a routine inspection of a local restaurant, but they refused to name the restaurant.
KSAT has now learned the name of that restaurant after the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department was forced to hand over its incident report, following a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Van’s Restaurant has served Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine for decades from its location in the 3200 block of Broadway near Brackenridge Park.
The report states that on April 13, a Texas Game Warden and K-9 handler performed a compliance inspection on all the aquatic products that are used for commercial purposes. During the inspection, the inspectors found $25,000 worth of whole shark fins and peeled shark fins available for sale in the restaurant’s commercial walk-in freezer.
It’s illegal to sell or purchase shark fin under Parks and Wildlife Code 66.2161.
At the time, a TPWD spokesperson said no arrests were made and the investigation was ongoing.
The report shows that Thanh Hein Nguyen, Nga To Van and Van To Van were charged with possession for sale, purchase to transport of shark fins and unlawful sale of aquatic products — Class B misdemeanors.
The report released Thursday by TPWD indicates the charges are pending.
None of the suspects listed in the report appear in Bexar County court records as having been formally charged in connection with the seizure.
Reached by phone Thursday, Nguyen denied the allegations and said he “had a lot of people behind him.”
A person who answered the phone listed for Nga To Van said KSAT had the wrong number.
Van To Van did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
Texas Game Wardens Facebook post from April:
“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 April.
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.
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.”
Watch KSAT report from April 2022: