A San Diego man was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after he posted an ad on Craigslist in which he tried to illegally sell endangered fish to an undercover agent.
According U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, Michael Loo pleaded guilty to selling the endangered Asian arowana fish online. Loo admitted he posted a Craigslist ad offering the fish and tried to sell them to an undercover agent for nearly $2,800.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said this is the second sentencing for the illegal sale of Asian arowanas in this region.
Kiem Tran, owner of the Fish Warehouse in Westminster, Calif., was sentenced on May 16 to two years of probation and a $1,000 fine for engaging in transactions with Loo involving the planned transportation of Asian arowanas between Westminster and San Diego.
Investigators said Tran was aware the arowanas in the transactions with Loo were an endangered species and had been brought into the U.S. illegally. During the investigation into Loo’s and Tran’s fish trafficking, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents seized 13 Asian arowanas.
The fish were forfeited to the government and have been kept at SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo during the cases.
Prosecutors said the Asian arowana fish is found in the rivers of Southeast Asia and was listed among the most restrictive species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1975.
The fish is also known as the “bonytongue” or “dragon fish,” and can grow to three feet in length. It is identified by large metallic scales, double barbels on the jaw, and large pectoral fins that make it look like a dragon in flight.
The fish are symbols of prosperity and luck in the Asian culture and are believed to preserve its owner from death by dying itself. The fish is commonly green but the rare red or golden arowanas are highly prized by collectors, selling for thousands of dollars, according to prosecutors.
The species has experienced loss of habitat and over-fishing for aquarium collections, leading to its endangered status.