A Vietnamese man's attempt to smuggle live tropical fish into New Zealand in his trouser pockets floundered when water was spotted dripping from his clothes. Customs officials noticed the man's cargo pants had bulging pockets 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.
Photo from here.
A spokesman for the Ministry for Primary Industries said the find was very rare. "We have previously intercepted crabs and other live animals but it's not a common occurrence." The man has been summoned to appear in Manukau District Court on biosecurity charges and could face a fine of up to $100,000 or five years imprisonment. MPI local passenger manager Craig Hughes said the deliberate attempt to smuggle fish into the country posed a serious biosecurity risk.
"That's something we take very seriously, which is why we are laying charges under the Biosecurity Act." 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," Hughes said. "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."
There's an audio news report here.