Australian Border Force (ABF) officers in Victoria have detected 20 fish in an air cargo consignment arriving from Vietnam, which was labelled as “artificial flowers”.
The package was X-rayed on arrival into Melbourne and officers quickly noted anomalies in the X-ray image.
Upon further examination, 13 plastic bags containing artificial plants were found. Deconstruction of these bags revealed a further 10 bags concealed inside, each containing two fish.
Nine of the animals were still alive and 11 of them were deceased.
The fish were referred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to assess the biosecurity risk.
Unfortunately in this instance, the surviving fish had to be humanely euthanised, as illegal imports of exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases that pose a significant biosecurity risk to Australia.
ABF Aviation Goods Victoria Superintendent Greg Dowse said the ABF deployed a multi-layered approach to detect items like this at the border.
“Our officers use various forms of resources and technology, including X-ray, detector dogs and intelligence, as well as officer skill and intuition, to find these and other items of interest,” Superintendent Dowse said.
“The illegal wildlife trade and smuggling of animals like this is cruel – as we’ve seen in this case, not many survive the trip. We will continue to work closely with our international and domestic partners to do what we can to stop this illegal and inhumane trade.”
A/g Head of Biosecurity Operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Mark Simpson, said the detection should serve as a warning to others.
“The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources works closely with the Australian Border Force to detect and intercept packages such as these,” Mr Simpson said.
The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences under Australian law is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000 for individuals or up to $1,050,000 for corporations.
People with information about the attempted illegal import of wildlife or who notice any suspicious border related activity should contact Border Watch at Australia.gov.au/borderwatch .