NEW ORLEANS – On December 12, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialist seized 509 prohibited aquatic items from a debarking cruise ship passenger.
Within the seaport terminal, the specialist was observing passengers debarking from the cruise vessel returning from a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise with stops in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Two passengers were referred to the agriculture secondary inspection area for a baggage examination. Upon inspection, the Agriculture Specialist discovered a large quantity of various aquatic items such as seashells, coral, etc. The U.S. citizen passengers, a husband and wife, admitted to collecting the items during the ports of call for use in art projects. CBP detained the items and turned them over to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
On Tuesday January 18, USFWS identified the prohibited items as: nine sea fans (Gorgonia sp.), 47 sea sponges (Porifera), five Queen conch shells (Strombus gigas), three pieces of bone, 297 shells (molluscs), 68 stony coral (Scleractinia), 25 pieces of crabs (crustacean), 30 sea urchins (Echinodermata), 21 mussel shells (molluscs), and four chiton (molluscs).
“While these aquatic items may look nice, the import/export of them needs to be regulated to protect these natural resources.” said Terri Edwards, New Orleans Area Port Director.
USFWS determined the items were prohibited under the following statutes: unlawfully importing a commercial shipment of wildlife without a USFWS import/export license; failure to declare a USFWS 3-177 “Declaration upon importation;” and unlawful import without a valid CITES export/import permit.
“Removing these items from the wild has a negative impact on plant and wildlife habitats and affects opportunities for others to appreciate and enjoy these species. These types of activities go against the very conservation ethic at the heart of federal wildlife laws that serve the public interest," said Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark.
The New Orleans Field Office covers ports of entry throughout the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.