Reseda Merchant Fined for Poisonous Stingrays

Times Staff Writer

The 29-year-old owner of a Reseda tropical fish store was fined $300 and sentenced to three years’ probation Monday for offering for sale poisonous stingrays imported from the Amazon region of South America.

Phillip Zangwill, who owns California Aquariums, pleaded guilty Monday to violating a California administrative code that prohibits possession of the disc-shaped fish.

The 10-inch-wide stingray attacks with its long, whiplike tail, according to state Fish and Game officials. The tail can contain one or more venomous spines. People stung by fresh-water stingrays can be stunned and temporarily paralyzed, they said.

Stingers Intact


State Fish and Game wardens were tipped off that Zangwill was attempting to sell seven of the fish at his store at 7313 Reseda Blvd. On March 27, the wardens visited the store and found the stingrays swimming in a display tank. Signs aimed at drawing customers’ attention to the stingrays were posted in the store, wardens said.

Zangwill told authorities that he thought the stingers had been removed from the fish. An examination of the fish indicated the stingers were intact, however.

Zangwill was originally charged with seven counts of possession of the fish, but agreed to plead guilty to one count, Deputy City Atty. Melody Bormaster said.

If convicted on all counts, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 years in County Jail and a $3,500 fine, Bormaster said.

Delicacy in Japan

Zangwill told wardens he bought the rays from a Valley hatchery, but a check of his invoices showed that he had bought only flounders from the hatchery, Bormaster said.

Freshwater stingrays are considered a delicacy in Japan, and Bormaster said that many are exported to Japan through the United States.

Last month, state fish and game wardens seized 35 stringrays from an El Segundo fish hatchery after being tipped off anonymously, Bormaster said. She said stingrays could survive and reproduce in California waters and pose a threat to swimmers and wildlife.