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Chef Nabbed in Airport Trying to Buy 24 Endangered Asian Arowana

A Chicago chef got what he had coming when authorities caught him trying to buy 24 of the world's most prized fishes.


A Chicago chef got what he had coming when authorities caught him trying to buy 24 of the world's most prized fishes.

Sittipat "Ong" Satangmongkol was nabbed trying to buy the Asian arowana, also known as dragonfishes. The highly endangered fish are the most expensive aquarium fishes in the world, retailing for as much as several thousand dollars on the black market.

The most expensive one ever was rumored to sell for more than $300,000, and during an arowana craze in Singapore, four fish heists went down in a single week.

Not only a status symbol, the fish is believed in some countries to bring extra good luck and wealth, thanks to its resemblance to the dragon.

And when people have spent so much on a fish, why not make it look as beautiful as possible?

In places where the fish is legal, like Singapore, some pet store owners give the already gorgeous animals a not-so-needed eye lift or chin job.

But no such fish doctors exist in the U.S., at least not legally. The dragonfish is allowed in aquariums in other parts of the world, but the U.S. has banned the sale of it due to its endangered status.

That's why Satangmongkol got nabbed for trying to go through with the purchase.

Authorities seized a tank of them that came through Chicago's O'Hare Airport before he could get his hands on them.

buy asian arowana Wikimedia/Karelj

Satangmongkol, a reported collector of exotic fish, said that he was looking to add them to his collection, but his lawyer noted that he understood the transaction was "fishy," not excusing the pun.

Satangmongkol got his violation reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and won't serve any time. But wildlife authorities are hopeful that even a slap on the wrist can prevent future illegal sales of the world's most desirable fish.

Add your name right now to make a difference for imperiled marine life and our oceans with Oceana.

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