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Seahorses Can’t Gallop Past CBP, FWS Clutches at Washington Dulles International Airport

Release Date: 
September 21, 2015

STERLING, Va., — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists see unusual products in passengers’ baggage nearly every day, and September 10 was no different. They discovered a container of 20 live seahorses while inspecting a Vietnamese woman’s baggage.

CBP detained the seahorses for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) inspectors to examine. Seahorses are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) because they are over-harvested for aquarium trade and for medical research.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Fish and Wildlife Service seized 20 live seahorses in a traveler's baggage from Vietnam September 10, 2015.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Fish and Wildlife Service seized 20 live seahorses in a traveler's baggage from Vietnam September 10, 2015.

According to FWS, there is a passenger baggage limit of four seahorses per passenger, but FWS inspectors seized all 20 since the passenger exceeded this limit and failed to declare the seahorses. View FWS Seahorses for rules and regulations for importing seahorses.

“Customs and Border Protection with our partners at the Fish and Wildlife Service remain committed to intercepting the international trafficking of protected and endangered species,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles.

In addition to the seahorses, CBP discovered prohibited pork and fruit and assessed her a $300 penalty for failing to declare any of it.

The woman arrived on a flight from South Korea.

The FWS is the primary agency responsible for enforcing CITES in the U.S. CBP works in tandem with FWS to ensure CITES is enforced at each of our nation’s ports of entry.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences, risk analysis, and in imported agriculture inspection techniques. CBP agriculture specialists are the first line of defense in the protection of U.S. agriculture, forest and livestock industries from exotic destructive plant pests and animal diseases.

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.

Read more about CBP’s agriculture protection mission.

In addition to agriculture enforcement, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts narcotics, weapons, currency, and other illicit items. View CBP’s enforcement stats on a “Typical Day” at CBP Snapshot.

Travelers are encouraged to visit CBP’s Travel section to learn rules, tips and advice to help quickly complete their CBP international arrivals inspection.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017