NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in New Orleans seized more than 500 prohibited aquatic items from a couple debarking a cruise ship in December.
A total of 509 items were seized on December 12, 2021 after the two passengers had their bags examined by a CBP Agriculture Specialist.
Upon inspection, the specialist discovered a large quantity of aquatic items such as seashells, sponges, and corals.
The couple had reportedly just returned from a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise with stops in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
The U.S. citizen passengers, a husband and wife, allegedly admitted to collecting the items during the ports of call for use in art projects. CBP says the items were detained and turned them over to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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.
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