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Officials seize $2.7 million worth of organs from endangered totoaba fish at Arizona border

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Monday, June 19, 2023 - 2:36pm
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2023 - 10:41am

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totoaba fish swim bladders
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Smugglers hid $2.7 million worth of totoaba fish swim bladders inside a shipment of frozen fish filets.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced it made its second-largest seizure ever of swim bladders from an endangered fish. Smugglers tried to bring the bladders into Arizona at the Port of Nogales in April. 

The 270 totoaba fish swim bladders hidden inside a shipment of frozen fish filets were estimated to be worth $2.7 million.

Dead Totoaba on the beach in San Felipe, Mexico.
Earth League International
A dead totoaba on the beach in San Felipe, Mexico.

Totoaba swim bladders are highly valuable to smugglers who sell them for use in Chinese traditional medicine. But the fish have been endangered since 1979. And fishing methods used to catch them in the Gulf of Mexico also put endangered vaquita marina porpoises at risk.

DNA tests confirmed the bladders came from the endangered fish. Homeland Security is still investigating the smuggling attempt.

The Show spoke with Andrea Crosta, founder and executive director of Earth League International, on what exactly is going on with the totoaba fish bladder seizure.

Andrea Crosta inspecting Totoaba maw seized in Hong Kong.
Gary Stokes
Andrea Crosta inspecting totoaba maw seized in Hong Kong.

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