Ministry for Primary Industries staff at Auckland airport avoided both a nasty nipping and a potential biosecurity beach when they seized live crabs from a Vietnamese passenger arriving from Sydney.
The five crabs were found in the passenger’s luggage after he declared the goods to biosecurity staff.
“They were quite large and gave us a bit of a fright. One actually crushed a pen when we were taking photos,” says team leader Nick Willis.
“We get a lot of fish and crustaceans coming through, but live crabs are very unusual.”
The unidentified crabs were a potential biosecurity threat to New Zealand, says Mr Willis.
“The crabs themselves could have caused damage to our marine species and our natural environment, or they could have been carrying unwanted organisms.”
The Chinese mitten crab is an example of a pest crab that has caused problems in other countries, he says.
“This crab has invaded Europe and North America from its native region of Asia. It wipes out local invertebrates. Its intensive burrowing activity causes erosion. And it costs fisheries and aquaculture hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by eating bait and trapped fish, and by damaging gear.”
As the passenger had declared the crabs, he escaped a fine, although he faced a $20 charge for choosing MPI to euthanise and then store the crustaceans for collection on his way out of New Zealand.