US Customs seizes over 500 'prohibited aquatic items' from couple on cruise out of New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS - A couple returning from a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise in New Orleans had over 500 "unwanted passengers" on board with them after collecting shells and coral throughout their trip for an art project.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reports an Agriculture Specialist seized 509 "prohibited aquatic items" from the cruise ship passengers on Dec. 12, 2021.
As passengers were debarking the ship that had just made its way through Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, the specialist noticed a pair that seemed to be carrying a large load of prohibited items and inspected their bags.
Upon inspection, the Agriculture Specialist discovered a large quantity of various aquatic items, including seashells and coral. The 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.” Terri Edwards, New Orleans Area Port Director said.
USFWS determined the items were prohibited without a license or proper permits.
“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," Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark said.
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