Two travellers fined for not declaring protected corals, shells

Source: 1News

Two travellers returning to New Zealand from tropical getaways have been fined after they didn't declare the protected corals and shells they brought back with them.

The six small giant clam shells a traveller failed to declare.

Corals and some shells found in the Pacific Islands are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

CITES regulates and monitors international trade in endangered animal and plant species. More than 38,000 species are covered by CITES.

The first traveller, returning from the Cook Islands in late May, failed to declare six clam shells they wanted to use as bathroom ornaments.

The shells from the maxima clam, also known as the small giant clam, had been picked up from the beach. They are threatened by international trade.

The second traveller, returning from Fiji in early June, failed to declare several pieces of stony coral they wanted to use as ornaments in a fish tank.

All stony corals are protected by CITES, regardless of where they're found or sourced from.

Wildlife protected by CITES generally needs permits to legally bring it into the country.

Department of Conservation's Clinton Turner said both travellers had initially declared some items to border officials, but x-rays of their baggage revealed further undeclared specimens.

Both travellers were fined $600 for importing the items without the required CITES permits.

"We understand people want to bring home trinkets and tokens of their holidays, but if those items are wildlife, they need to check the rules first. They also need to know the contents of their luggage and be honest with border officials about what they are bringing in," he said.

"We want to emphasise to all New Zealanders with international travel plans to please check the rules around importing wildlife items. Knowing the rules, getting the right permits and being honest at the border is a far better option than being embarrassed and given a fine when you return from your overseas break."