According to court documents and information presented in court, the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for approximately one year. The officers were Japanese nationals, and the fishermen were Indonesian nationals. During the voyage, the fishermen harvested fins from approximately 300 sharks, in some instances while the sharks were stunned but still alive, and discarded the finless carcasses into the ocean, all under the supervision of the Captain, and at the direction of the Fishing Master and First Engineer. The Captain, Fishing Master, First Engineer, and many of the Indonesian fishermen all kept shark fins to take home with them.
The Kyoshin Maru traveled to a location near Honolulu, Hawai‘i, but more than 12 miles from shore, where it met a water taxi that had been arranged by a Vessel Agent from a local marine navigation corporation. The Indonesian fishermen disembarked the Kyoshin Maru and boarded the water taxi. The Kyoshin Maru then left for Japan with the Captain, Fishing Master, and First Engineer onboard, still in possession of shark fins. Meanwhile, the Indonesian fishermen traveled to Pier 36, where they legally entered the United States for the purpose of traveling in the custody of the Vessel Agent to Honolulu International Airport, in order to board previously-ticketed flights to Indonesia.
During routine screening, officers with the Transportation Security Administration discovered shark fins in checked luggage. Upon discovering the shark fins, TSA immediately notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined the checked luggage belonged to 10 of the Indonesian fishermen and included approximately 190 pounds of shark fins, which is worth as much as $57,850 on the black market.