Six months in jail for Taiwanese man who killed rare fish

Appeals are still possible

A humphead wrasse. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A man from Taitung County’s Green Island was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of NT$300,000 (US$9,800) Friday for killing an endangered type of fish known as a humphead wrasse or Napoleon fish.

When the incident surfaced through an online picture last May, outraged nature lovers tracked down and exposed the man, naming him as Chen Ming-hsien (陳明憲), the owner of a bed and breakfast on the island.

Right from the start until the trial, he spun a tissue of lies, reports said. In court, he claimed he suffered from poor eyesight, which had led him to killing the fish erroneously, but judges did not believe him, reports said.

The blue fish, which measured 2 meters and weighed 53 kilograms, was first seen lying dead on a cutting board in a picture reportedly posted by Chen. He was tracked down thanks to a tattoo visible on the picture, reports said.

At first, he claimed the picture had been taken seven years earlier and he had produced it to show to guests at his B&B, but it turned out that both the smartphone  the picture had been taken with and the pair of shoes Chen was wearing in the photo did not even exist seven years earlier.

Chen was forced to admit he had only recently killed the fish and led investigators to the site where he had hidden its remains.

Prosecutors demanded a prison sentence of 14 months for the man. Judges rejected his arguments in court that problems with his eyes had prevented him from recognizing he was targeting a humphead wrasse. As a local B&B operator for 20 years and a diving instructor, he should have clearly known the fish was protected, judges said.

Chen’s partner in catching the fish, a man named Chang, was also sentenced to six months in prison but suspended for three years, and to a fine of NT$100,000 (US$3,260) and 80 hours of compulsory service. Appeals were still possible.

Only seven humphead wrasses were reported living around Green Island before Chen was apprehended, and no new ones had been born to the fish, who live up to 50 years, reports said.