prison.jpgThe owner of a tropical fish company in Hayward has been sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to one and a half months in prison for illegally importing a rare fish from a French island.

Steven Robinson, 58, of Hayward, who owns Cortez Marine International, was given the prison sentence and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine by U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins on Wednesday.

Robinson admitted in his guilty plea in August to collecting 52 Clipperton Angelfish in 2009 from Clipperton Island, an uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean about 700 miles southwest of Mexico.

The island belongs to France, and French law requires a permit from the French government for collecting any Clipperton Angelfish.

The blue Clipperton Angelfish is found only at Clipperton Island.

Robinson pleaded guilty on Aug. 17 to one misdemeanor count of illegal trade in protected wildlife.

The 45-day prison sentence was outlined in his plea agreement.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Robinson admitted that he took a four-day voyage to the island in April 2009 for the purpose of collecting the fish.

He then tried to bring them to the United States by labeling them as a more common type of angelfish, known as “Blue passer,” found in Mexican waters, Haag said. The fish were seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Haag said the Clipperton Angelfish can be sold for several thousand dollars each in U.S. markets and up to $10,000 in Asian markets.

Robinson was ordered to begin serving his sentence on Jan. 30.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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