Eleven shark fins and dismembered sharks were found aboard a fishing boat in the Florida Keys, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
The discovery was made when a crew stopped the 40-foot commercial fishing vessel Miss Shell near South Sound Creek off Key Largo on Monday, officials said.
The crew, which included a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer, boarded the boat for improper display of navigation lights and found the sharks and fins. The boat was escorted to Port Largo and the catch was seized.
Since 2000, federal law has prohibited shark finning, the process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark.
The operator of the boat is charged with violations that include failure to maintain a shark in its proper form and failure to maintain naturally attached shark fins through off-loading. The shark fins have been sent to a laboratory to determine the species of origin and could lead to further charges, officials said.
"This case is a great example of interagency coordination to stop illegal fishing and allows for efficient enforcement of the commercial fishing fleet in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rich Steidell said in a statement. "Our marine resources are extremely valuable to the public and our nation. Boaters and fishermen are reminded to familiarize themselves with the fishing regulations to make sure they are complying with federal law."