Steve Robinson of Cortez Marine, a wholesale operation located in the Bay Area community of Hayward, Calif., has plead guilty to to illegally collecting the rare Clipperton angelfish endemic to an uninhabited French atoll 800 miles off the coast of Mexico. Robinson was charged with catching 52 of the Clipperton angelfish and relabeling them as the more common Passer angelfish.
This is the same instance we reported on over two years ago when the illegal Clipperton angelfish were seized by U.S. Fish & Wildlife service workers in early 2009.
The Clipperton Islands are an uninhabited atoll that belongs to France and its permission to collect these fish was needed. Robinson is facing up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine based off the U.S. Department of Justice’s speculation that a Clipperton could fetch up to $10,000 on the open market — something Robinson is disputing. Robinson is due back in court in San Francisco to face sentencing on November 30.
We have to give Robinson credit for making the trek all the way out to the atoll to collect fish but he should have filed the proper paperwork to collect these species. In the article, Robinson disputes their rarity since they thrive in abundance in their native habitat. He could have presented his case to the proper authorities and had the sole, legal collection rights but he chose to ignore law and tempt fate.
In the original seizure, 40 of the 52 were alive. We haven’t seen any of the Clipperton angelfish since then and can only assume they mostly died in captivity. While Robinson and others have worked hard to educated the industry and hobby on ecologically safe and sustainable harvesting techniques, illegally capturing and mislabeling fish does nothing but provide another black eye for the hobby.
[via San Jose Mercury News]