Seven people have been charged with smuggling parts of an endangered species of fish into the United States to profit from a lucrative black market, federal authorities in San Diego said.
The seven are charged with smuggling dried swim bladders from the endangered Totoaba macdonaldi. The bladders are prized for use in Chinese soups and can fetch up to $5,000 apiece in the United States, twice that amount in foreign markets in Asia, authorities said.
Authorities have seized 529 bladders since February. The fish travels in shallow waters at the mouth of the Colorado River and also the east coast of the Gulf of California. The swim bladder helps control buoyancy.
The latest person arrested was Song Shen Zhen, 73, of Calexico. He is charged with smuggling and unlawful importation of protected wildlife.