SAN DIEGO (FOX News, May 19,2017): – A father and son have been indicted on charges of smuggling illegally harvested sea cucumbers worth more than $17 million into the United States and selling the Chinese delicacy on Asian markets.
Depending on the species, sea cucumbers can go for as much as $300 a pound in China and Hong Kong, authorities say.
Ramon Torres Mayorquin and his son, David Mayorquin, were charged in federal court in San Diego of conspiracy, false labeling and unlawful importation of wildlife, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Their company, Blessings Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, was also charged.
The sausage-shaped marine animals are prized by some Asian communities as a culinary delicacy and folk-medicine ingredient.
“Sea cucumbers are taking up quite a bit of our time down at the border,” said Erin Dean, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southern California region.
“It’s a high-valued commodity that’s being smuggled in small quantities across the border, and then consolidated here in the U.S. and then, we believe, being shipped out to Asia,” she said.
Buying and selling sea cucumbers can be a legitimate business if people have the proper permits and operate in season. The Mayorquin family had a permit, but federal authorities said they also operated outside of the law.