Tropical fish smuggler's story leaks out

By Calida Smylie

Common freshwater angelfish.Photo / Creative Commons
Common freshwater angelfish.Photo / Creative Commons

A Vietnamese air passenger has been charged with smuggling live tropical fish in his trouser pockets after airport staff noticed water dripping down the man's leg.

Customs officials at Auckland noticed the man's cargo pants had bulging pockets and water was seeping through the fabric when he arrived this week from Australia.

The passenger said he was carrying water from the plane because he was thirsty. When asked to show the contents of his pockets, he took out two plastic bags containing water and seven live fish.

The man said he was bringing the fish into NZ for a friend.

After a full search, Customs referred the passenger to Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity officials. He now faces prosecution.

"This appears to be a deliberate attempt to smuggle fish into the country without any consideration of the biosecurity risk involved," said ministry local passenger manager Craig Hughes.

"It's something we take very seriously, which is why we're laying charges under the Biosecurity Act."

The fish have been identified as cichlids, although the exact species is not yet known.

"The fish could have been carrying diseases or have the potential to displace native species," said Mr Hughes.

"Even if the species were permitted to enter ... it would still need to go through strict quarantine procedures."

- NZ Herald

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