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Bladder smuggler

Totoaba fish is endangered

Song Shen Zhen was sentenced to a year in custody and told to pay $120,500 to the Mexican environmental protection agency today (Aug. 11).

Last year, Zhen had been caught smuggling dried Totoaba bladders — a delicacy in Asia — into the U.S. in his car. The totoaba is an endangered, protected species of fish.

Border agents found that he had more than 200 bladders in his home in Calexico, worth more than $1 million in the U.S.

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Song Shen Zhen was sentenced to a year in custody and told to pay $120,500 to the Mexican environmental protection agency today (Aug. 11).

Last year, Zhen had been caught smuggling dried Totoaba bladders — a delicacy in Asia — into the U.S. in his car. The totoaba is an endangered, protected species of fish.

Border agents found that he had more than 200 bladders in his home in Calexico, worth more than $1 million in the U.S.

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5

Here we are in the 21st century, and we still have spots in the world that have desires for all sorts of strange nostrums or "delicacies." Rhino horn, bear gall bladder and now this. A million dollars worth of fish guts? Yep, that seems to be the story. As these species become more endangered, or go extinct, the desire for this sort of offal will just increase.

Aug. 12, 2014

Visduh: So true. Tragically, endangered species attract daredevils. Best, Don Bauder

Aug. 12, 2014

Some wildlife watch-groups are worried that the African Elephant will be extinct (in the wild) by 2020. That is 6 years from now. This is because of the insatiable demand for ivory chopsticks and other trinkets. The poachers sometimes chain saw the tusks while the elephant is still alive.

On the subject of the Totoaba bladders, I wonder how it became a delicacy in Asia. Totoaba is native to the Sea of Cortez. Although endangered, they also aqua-farm them. Somehow an export market was created by making this species a folk medicine by spreading a myth about mystic powers.

Aug. 12, 2014

Ponzi: Totoaba fish are only found in the Sea of Cortez. In Asia, the bladders are used for a specialty soup, for therapeutic and medicinal purposes, and for complexion improvement. Best, Don Bauder

Aug. 12, 2014

I used to eat totuava/totoaba (the latter more phonetic in Mexican Spanish than the former) in the early seventies, ignorant of their status. I quit eating them after Jack Christensen (Point Loma Seafood) told me that a Mexican "fisherman" had shown up at his place with a trailer-truck load (unrefrigerated) to sell. They were, of course, rotten. He told me that the Mexicans "fished" with dynamite, and he would never buy them anyway. He must have had legitimate sources.

But an even bigger threat to this fishery comes from the good ol' USA. The trickle that is the Colorado River in Mexico (after we've watered our lawns) is insufficient to maintain the conditions in the delta under which they spawn.

It's unfortunate that the rapidly-enrichening Chinese persist in their superstitions about bladders, livers, and horns as "medicinal." While some Chinese "medicines" like green tea may well have benefits, they have (or should have) rhino horns up where the sun don't shine, still attached to the rhino, especially in a day when other drugs and devices are truly effective in pumping up their peckers.

Dec. 12, 2014

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