Bai Lin Huang, 49, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison, and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine for the illegal smuggling of Asian arowana, an endangered species of freshwater fish.
Huang pleaded guilty in August 2009 to one count of smuggling and one count of making a false statement. According to the plea agreement, Huang admitted to smuggling in more than two dozen Asian arowana fish on two separate occasions in 2005. He also said that he deceived both wildlife inspectors and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents during the course of the investigation.
He also provided false documents from China stating that a shipment that contained Asian arowana, disguised as “assorted Koi,” sent to Huang was a mistake, when Huang knew that it was not. Huang further admitted to selling Asian arowana on the black market in the past and commanding up to $2,000 per fish.
The Asian arowana fish, also known as Asian Boney tongue fish, is native to Indonesia and Malaysia. It is classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An individual fish, believed to be a good luck charm in certain communities, can command from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on its size and color. It is illegal to trade in this fish without a permit.
The prosecution is the result of a multi-year investigation by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and is tied to other Asian arowana prosecutions this United States Attorney’s Office has pursued with the Service.