Federal prosecutors in San Diego said Wednesday they have charged seven people over the past two months with engaging in an unusual but highly lucrative smuggling trade involving the bladders of an endangered fish that lives in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.
The bladders of the totoaba (toe-TWAH-bah) fish can each fetch as much as $10,000 or more on the black market abroad, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said at a news conference at the federal building in downtown San Diego.
They are highly sought after for use in a Chinese soup, and are prized for their supposed benefits for boosting fertility, skin vitality and circulation.
The seven charged since February are accused of trying to cross from Mexico into the United States with 529 of the valuable bladders. One man charged last week, 73-year-old Song Shen Zhen, was found with 27 of them in his vehicle at the Calexico Port of Entry.