True Worlds Group fined for selling skate fins in violation of California law

Rockleigh, New Jersey-based True World Foods San Francisco LLC has paid USD 50,000 (EUR 42,107) in fines to the California state government related to charges it illegally sold and distributed detached skate fins.

However, the company said it did not knowingly violate state laws.

Earlier this year, the District Attorney of San Mateo County notified True World that it had illegally sold and distributed detached skate fins. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated company records, which revealed its import of 73 packages of dried skate meat from Japan. The company sold the packages to one customer in California between June 2013 and October 2014. 

“True World Foods was unaware that the species was protected under California law because the language of the California Fish & Game Code … prohibiting the sale of ‘shark fin’ does not include either the relevant scientific (Okamejei kenojei) or the common (Ocellate spot skate) name or make any reference to skate, stingray or ray,” the distributor said in a statement issued to SeafoodSource. “True World Foods has had an exemplary record of compliance with California species protection laws and cooperated fully with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in the investigation that preceded the District Attorney’s action.”

The skate, sourced off the north coast of Japan and in the East China Sea – “Where it is plentiful,” according to the company – is not listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or by U.S. or international law, according to True World Group. 

“California is one of only four U.S. states that prohibits the sale of the species involved,” the company said. 

However, after True World executives learned that California fish and game law applied to skates, the distributor immediately stopped all trade in the product, it said. The company also instituted an internal control to prevent its future sale of skate products, the statement said.

True World Group’s total revenue from the sale of dried skate meat was USD 2,706.47 (EUR 2,279). The District Attorney originally proposed a civil penalty of USD 182,000 (EUR 153,231), multiplying the 73 alleged violation incidents by the USD 2,500 (EUR 2,105) maximum penalty per violation allowed, according to True World Group. 

The two sides came to an agreement on the USD 50,000 fine earlier this year.


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