Fish found in pants 'humanely euthanised'

By Teuila Fuatai, Calida Smylie

A bag of fish allegedly found on a Vietnamese air passenger at Auckland Airport.
A bag of fish allegedly found on a Vietnamese air passenger at Auckland Airport.

Tropical fish that were found down a man's pants at Auckland Airport after he arrived on a flight from Australia have been "humanely euthanised".

The fish, identified as cichlids, were discovered after airport staff noticed the Vietnamese man had water dripping down his legs on Tuesday.

New Zealand Customs Officials said the pockets of the man's cargo pants were bulging and water was seeping through the fabric.

When asked to turn out his pants, officials were presented with two plastic bags containing water and seven live fish.

After a full search by Customs officials, the man - who said he was transporting the fish for a friend - was referred to Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) biosecurity officials.

The ministry's local passenger manager Craig Hughes condemned the man's actions, and said it appeared to be a "deliberate attempt to smuggle fish into the country without any consideration of the biosecurity risk involved".

He had been charged under the Biosecurity Act and was facing prosecution, Mr Hughes said.

"The fish could have been carrying diseases or have the potential to displace native species. Even if the species were permitted to enter the country under New Zealand's import regulations, it would still need to go through strict quarantine procedures."

An MPI spokeswoman this afternoon said the fish had been "humanely euthanised" in keeping with regulations.

She was unable to confirm the nature of the man's charges and whether he had been in court.

Notable smuggling cases:

* Aug 28, 2013: Four men accused of smuggling six Black Rock scorpions from Australia through Christchurch International Airport. The men were discovered after a tip-off to MPI.

* May 2012: German reptile poacher Andreas Hahn jailed for four months after being caught with four jewelled geckos. The reptiles can fetch $8000 on the European reptile blackmarket.

* Jan 2010: German reptile collector Hans Kurt Kubus jailed for 14 weeks, ordered to pay a $5000 fine, then deported after being caught with travelling illegally with 44 wild geckos and skinks from New Zealand.

* May 2010: Cambodian woman discovered at Auckland Airport smuggling what was suspected to be a tiger pizzle (penis) and a tiger gall bladder.

- APNZ

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