Texas Restaurant Caught With More Than 400 Illegal Shark Fins Identified

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A Texas seafood restaurant that was reportedly caught with more than 400 illegal shark fins in April 2022 has been identified in the latest legal reports.  

Earlier this week, KSAT 12 obtained a report by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department which named Van’s Restaurant as the establishment involved in the situation. The restaurant has served Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines for decades from its Broadway location in San Antonio, Texas. The report stated that Thanh Hein Nguyen, Nga To Van, and Van To Van were the individuals charged with purchasing to transport shark fins, possession of shark fins for sale, and unlawful sale of aquatic products. All charges are Class B misdemeanors. 

According to the documents, the shark fin case is still pending. The Texas Game Wardens have seized more than $25,000 in fins this past spring. Dozens upon dozens of shark fins were discovered along with 29.2 pounds of frozen fins inside the restaurant’s commercial freezer. In April, it was noted by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department that no arrests were made. However, none of the suspects listed in the report are appearing in the Bear County court records as being formally charged in connection with the illegal activity. 

In a phone interview this week, Nguyen denied the allegations against him. He also said that he had a lot of people behind him in regard to the situation. The other two suspects were unable to reach for comment. 

In June 2015, Texas became the 10th state to ban the trade of shark fins. In a press release from Oceana, it was revealed that H.B. 1579 ensures that the Lone Star state would no longer participate in the global fin trade. It was noted that the fin trade is largely responsible for the decline of shark populations throughout the world. 

Texas Game Warden Reveals the Type of Shark Fins Discovered in Restaurant Bust 

While speaking to CNN this past spring, Kevin Winters, one of two Texas Game Wardens who discovered the illegal shark fins at Van’s Restaurant this past spring, revealed the type of fins that were found. 

Winters revealed to the media outlet that some of the fins came from blacktip sharks. This type of fish is found throughout the Gulf of Mexico. However, it’s not clear whether the fish originated from the Gulf. Winters said that they were unable to identify the species of all the sharks. “Some were peeled already, prepared to be cooked for the soup,” he explained. 

Although Texas has banned the shark fin trade more than seven years ago, Winters said that the “demand and the market and the trade” is still there. He also said that this is the first known fin case in San Antonio. “It is pretty significant that in a city that’s one-and-a-half or two hours from the coast, we’re still finding [fins for sale].”