Fish Health Inspector receives accolade for part in shark sting

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A British Fish Health Inspector has received an award following his investigative work which led to the prosecution of those smuggling sharks from the USA into the UK's aquarium trade.

Steve Maidment, a Fish Health Inspector at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) received the accolade from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in California, after the global shark smuggling gang was prosecuted earlier this year.

Maidment worked with the Fish Health Inspectorate in the UK on behalf of NOAA to investigate the illegal export of Leopard sharks from California.

The sharks were caught in the San Francisco Bay and sold on while less than 36"/90cm long. Removing the fish from their natural habitat at this size is an offence under Californian State legislation.

Around 200 Leopard sharks were imported via Heathrow Airport between 2000 and 2005, and were then legitimately sold in the aquarium trade.

Donald Masters, Special Agent in Charge of NOAA in California, said: "Inspector Maidment distinguished himself as a very thorough and diligent investigator during his work on this case.

"He has been instrumental in overcoming this worldwide conspiracy. The tenacity and perseverance he demonstrated in conducting his investigation are hallmarks of his professionalism.

"His support and assistance in the protection of marine resources has enhanced the United States Federal Government's efforts to manage our nation's marine resources."

Helen Ghosh, Defra's Permanent Secretary, presented an impressive blue and gold plaque to Steve Maidment recently at the Cefas laboratory in Weymouth.

Maidment, who is a former Detective Superintendent, joined CEFAS from Dorset Police upon his retirement in 1997 and has been undertaking an investigative role with the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) to try and crack down on illegal imports of fish.

He is due to retire next year.