Passenger caught with fish in trouser pockets

30 August 2013

A Vietnamese air passenger is facing prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) after trying to smuggle live tropical fish into New Zealand in his trouser pockets.

New Zealand Customs officials noticed the man had bulging pockets in his cargo pants with water dripping through the fabric when he arrived at Auckland airport this week from Australia.

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

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

After a full search, New Zealand Customs referred the passenger to MPI biosecurity officials.

“This appears to be a deliberate attempt to smuggle fish into the country without any consideration of the biosecurity risk involved. That’s something we take very seriously, which is why we are laying charges under the Biosecurity Act,” says Craig Hughes, the Ministry for Primary Industry’s local passenger manager.

“The interception demonstrates the close working relationship that has developed between MPI and Customs under recent reforms to streamline New Zealand’s border processes,” he says.

The fish have been identified as cichlids, although the exact species is unknown at this stage.

“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,” says Mr Hughes.

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