Public aquarium founders accused of illegally buying fish


Two men have been arrested and charged with illegally purchasing marine animals for display at a public aquarium in the US.

It's alleged that Ammon Covino and Chris Conk purchased $6,300/£4160 worth of protected fish out of Florida for the Idaho Aquarium, which the two men run. Covino is the president of the aquarium.

According to court documents four Spotted eagle rays and two Lemon sharks were harvested illegally and without a permit. In the state of Florida the fishing, landing, purchasing and trading of both these fish is illegal.

Covino and Conk were arrested on Thursday, February 21. The two men were charged with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and violating the Lacey Act, which makes it against the law in the US to take illegally captured or prohibited animals across state lines.

The defendants are each charged with one count of Conspiracy and three counts of Illegal Purchase and Sale of Fish/Wildlife. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 - meaning if convicted the pair could face 20 years in prison and one million dollars in fines.

According to reports, Conk has faced similar charges in the past, pleading guilty in 2011 to illegally shipping protected corals around the world from his home.

The defendants were ordered to appear on March 15 in a Florida federal court in Key West.

The Idaho Aquarium was closed to the public on the Thursday, with officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service on guard to ensure no one entered the building. Two potentially illegally obtained sharks were confiscated.

The rays were reportedly never shipped.

The aquarium re-opened as usual to the public on Friday, February 22.

The Idaho Aquarium is a non-profit organisation, which opened in December 2011 and is home to over 250 species of animals and marine life.

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