More than 500 ‘prohibited’ shells, coral seized from couple returning from cruise
NEW ORLEANS (Gray News) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than 500 various shells and coral from two cruise ship passengers in New Orleans during a routine baggage check.
The husband and wife admitted to collecting the items during their vacation at various stops on the cruise, telling officials they were planning on using the shells for art projects, CBP said in a news release Tuesday. Their seven-day Western Caribbean cruise included stops in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
However, officials said it is illegal to import wildlife to the United States without a license.
In total, CBP agents confiscated 509 items from the couple on Dec. 12 – nine sea fans, 47 sea sponges, five Queen conch shells, three pieces of bone, 297 mollusk shells, 68 stony coral, 25 pieces of crabs, 30 sea urchins, 21 mussel shells, and four chiton.
The items were turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“While these aquatic items may look nice, the import/export of them needs to be regulated to protect these natural resources,” New Orleans Area Port Director Terri Edwards said in a statement.
Special Agent in Charge Stephen Clark said in a statement that removing these items from the wild has a negative impact on plant and wildlife habitats and affects opportunities for others to appreciate the species.
“These types of activities go against the very conservation ethic at the heart of federal wildlife laws that serve the public interest,” Clark said.
CBP Public Affairs Officer Matthew Dyman said in an email that because this was a first-time violation, the couple was let off with a warning. However, if they were to be caught again, they could face penalties.
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