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Baltimore CBP Finds a Whale of a Tale

Release Date: 
February 12, 2016

BALTIMORE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) Agriculture Specialists discovered possible whale bones while inspecting passenger baggage from Iceland Sunday at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The importation of certain types of bones is restricted. Whale bones are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CBP, in collaboration with USFWS, enforces CITES regulations as well as the ESA at our nation's borders.

CBP agriculture specialists detained suspected whale bones from a traveler Iceland at Washington Dulles International Airport February 7, 2016.

CBP agriculture specialists detained suspected whale bones from a traveler Iceland at Washington Dulles International Airport February 7, 2016.

"While performing our traditional role of enforcing international trade and travel laws, CBP remains vigilant in detecting violations of hundreds of U.S. regulations for many other agencies,” said Dianna Bowman CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. "We take our job of enforcing laws that protect endangered animal life very seriously and will aggressively prevent the illegal introduction of these products into the U.S."

The passenger, who arrived on a flight from Iceland, was referred for a secondary inspection where CBP agriculture specialists found the bones in his luggage. The traveler claimed they were whale bones. CBP detained the bones and contacted USFWS for a formal determination of the origin. Identification of the bones is pending. If the bones are determined to not be from an endangered species, they will be returned to the passenger.

CBP released the passenger after agriculture specialists detained the suspected whale bones.

CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Today, CITES accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats, or dried herbs.

To learn more about CITES regulated products, please visit the CITES website.

The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The Interior Department's USFWS and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service administer the ESA. The USFWS has listed 2,246 species worldwide as endangered or threatened, of which 1,159 occur in the United States.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day nationally, they inspect over 1 million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the United States, and intercept 4,447 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 425 agriculture pests and diseases.

To learn more about CBP's agriculture protection mission, please visit CBP Protecting Agriculture.

In addition to prohibited agriculture product interdiction, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts currency, weapons, narcotics and other illicit items.

Travelers are encouraged to visit CBP's Travel section to learn rules governing travel to and from the U.S.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017