Ship sail

Cruise liner couple caught with banned shells in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) –– Picked up a seashell or two on a beach vacation? You’re probably fine.

More than 500 shells, pieces of coral and other souvenirs? Don’t try.

Two cruise ship passengers arriving at the Port of New Orleans were recently arrested by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with more than 500 “prohibited aquatic items” in their luggage after cruising the Western Caribbean.

According to information provided by CBP Public Affairs Specialist Matthew Dyman, an unidentified husband and wife were set aside at the port terminal for secondary baggage inspection as they disembarked the vessel on December 12. Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service identified the banned items, which included five shells among hundreds, sea fans, sponges, sea urchins and pieces of coral.

The couple told CBP officials they collected the items while on the cruise to do “art projects.” But Fish and Wildlife officials said the couple violated federal law by “illegally importing a commercial shipment of wildlife.”

However, on the issue of the number of beach items too much a lot, says Dyman “there are no clear answers”.

“There are a lot of different factors,” Dyman told WGNO, “and ultimately it’s at the discretion of the CBP officer or fish and wildlife inspector. If people are found with one or two clearly dead shells picked up from the beach, they may be allowed to keep them, but also depends on the species. Is it endangered? Is it common? Was it purchased in a beach shop, was it recovered from the beach?”

Dyman referred WGNO to federal laws regarding the importation of fish and wildlife.

According to Lacey’s Law, it is “unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase any fish, wildlife, or plants taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law , or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants caught, possessed, or sold in violation of state or foreign law.”

Criminal penalties for violating the Lacey Act can be punished as a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $100,000 per individual, or as a felony with a maximum of $250,000 per individual.

Dyman told WGNO that because it was a ‘first offense’, the New Orleans couple were ‘left with a warning by US Fish and Wildlife, although they won’t get their items back. aquatic”.

“However, if a similar situation were to happen again, after they had been warned beforehand,” Dyman said, “they could certainly be subject to fines.”