In September 2005, U.S. prosecutors brought criminal charges against Antonio Vidal Pego and the Uruguayan company Fadilur for trying to bring Chilean sea bass into Miami without proper documentation.
Although this case may have lacked the pizazz necessary to inspire a Law & Order episode, it was, in fact, a very big deal. This indictment was the first ever for the illegal importation and sale of Chilean sea bass. Yesterday was another groundbreaker, with the first ever guilty pleas for pirate fishing (coming from Vidal and Fadilur).
Vidal is now on probation for four years and has to pay a fine of $400,000. He also agreed to have no further involvement in the Chilean sea bass business and gave the feds the right to essentially look at his businesses at will and to waive extradition so they can bring him back in if he violates probation. And Fadilur? Well, they agreed to shut down their business altogether.
Chilean sea bass — aka Patagonian toothfish — went from unknown to must-have to taboo in a matter of decades. As its popularity grew, commercial fishermen quickly drove down populations and drove up the price. Many modern-day pirates continue to ignore Chilean sea bass regulations to score big bucks for the pricey fish.
Hopefully, this case will encourage illegal fishermen to lay off the sea bass (and other protected species).