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Sunday, May 08, 2011


Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and Salvatore Amato, Special Agent in Charge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement in the Northeast Region, today announced that Yong Hao Wu, a co-owner of Howei Trading, Inc., of Brooklyn, has been charged with illegally importing snakehead fish, which are dangerous to indigenous fish populations.

District Attorney Brown said, “Although the snakehead fish is considered a delicacy in Chinese and Korean cuisine, it is a predatory freshwater fish that has been outlawed in New York State since 2004 because it is a danger to local fish and wildlife. It is disheartening that people are willing to take a chance of these fish escaping and wreaking havoc on our ecosystem for mere monetary gain.”

Commissioner Martens said, “Live importation or possession of the Chinese Snakehead fish is banned in New York because it is a destructive invasive species to New York’s aquatic ecosystem. Although these particular live Snakehead fish were intended to be used as food, they often are purchased as pets and later released into New York’s waterways where they damage or destroy our native fish species. This arrest highlights the efforts of our Conservation Police officers to protect our native aquatic species. I would also like to commend and thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agents and the Queens District Attorney for joining us in this fight to preserve New York’s natural resources.”

Special Agent in Charge Amato said, “If invasive snakeheads escaped into New York’s waterways, the impact on native fish species would be nothing short of devastating. The Service is grateful for the cooperation and hard work of our New York State counterparts to combat illegal smuggling of the fish some call ‘fishzilla.’”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Yong Hao Wu, 43, of West 27th Street in Brooklyn. Wu, who is a co-owner of Howei Trading Inc., of 4709 Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn, is presently being held pending arraignment on charges of felony commercialization of wildlife [ECL 71-0924.3] and importing fish dangerous to indigenous fish populations [6NYCRR 180.9(b)(1)(iv)(c). If convicted, Wu faces up to four years in prison.

District Attorney Brown said that, according to the charges, on February 13, 2010, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport assisted in the inspection of a shipment of fish imported by Howei Trading Inc., which declared the fish as the Chinese black sleeper (Bostrichthys sinensis). However, it is alleged that the 353 fish, which had arrived from Macau on EVA Air, were live snakehead fish (Channa asiatica), weighing nearly 190 pounds. Under mobile surveillance the shipment was allowed to be delivered to Howei Trading, where it was then seized. It is alleged that once inside the location Environmental Conservation officers discovered a tank containing 82 additional snakehead fish.

It is further alleged that a review conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, noted that Howei Trading Inc., had declared the importation of a total of 3,889 Chinese black sleeper fish on six prior shipments between January 24, 2010, and February 10, 2010. However, at the time of his arrest, Wu allegedly admitted that he had imported the snakehead fish in those six earlier shipments.

Species of invasive snakeheads, a predatory, freshwater fish native to China, Russia and Korea, have been found in rivers and lakes across the United States, from California to Maryland’s Potomac River. Snakeheads are air-breathers and can travel short distances over land, writhing their body and fins until they reach a suitable aquatic habitat. With no natural predators in the U.S., these voracious feeders out-compete native species, disrupting both native waterways and the commercial fishing industry dependent on native species.

The investigation was conducted by Lieutenant John Fitzpatrick, of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Law Enforcement, in conjunction with Special Agent Paul Chapelle, of the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Senior Assistant District Attorney David Chen, of the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gregory C. Pavlides, Bureau Chief, and Christina Hanophy, Deputy Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney Linda M. Cantoni.

It should be noted that a complaint is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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