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The largest shipment of sea cucumber in the past 10 years detected in Primorye

30 november 2011
According to an expert assessment by WWF Russia, the market value of contraband sea cucumber detected at the border crossing “Tury Rog” by officers of Far Eastern Operational Customs Agency reaches 34 million rubles

On 24 November the officers of the Far Eastern Operative Customs Agency stopped another attempt to smuggle sea cucumber across the border – the largest shipment in the past 10 years. WWF Russia experts assisted with the expertise.

According to the Far Eastern Operative Customs Agency press service in the course of investigation it was determined that the crime was well planned by a group of individuals including several Chinese citizens. A special hiding place was equipped in the transport vehicle for international transportation. In the course of examination at the border crossing “Tury Rog” (Pogranichny district) the customs officers discovered in the hiding place 50 sacks of dried trepang with a total weight of 570 kg. To get a load like this the poachers had to process no less than 15 tons of trepang. The design of the hiding place speaks to the serious intentions of the criminal group and their long term plans.

According to our preliminary conclusion the value of the detained load of sea cucumber makes about 34 million rubles, which undoubtedly is a serious violation and grounds for opening a criminal case, which has been done already. Certainly, such a large sum is due to the record size of this trepang shipment, the largest in 10 years. The increase of contraband flow of this item has many reasons, one of them – increased demand in China for this wildlife product, the price of which has risen by 3 times”, - comments Sergei Aramilev, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF-Russia Amur branch.

In 2011 this is the second large detected attempt to smuggle sea cucumber across the border using this method. In September the court imposed a judgment on a citizen of China: the verdict turned out to be very soft due to the liberalization of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation.

WWF has long spoken out about the urgent need to amend the Criminal Code and other legislative acts concerning contraband prevention, with active support from the Customs Agency. Presently, the scale of the punishment for wildlife contraband is based only on the volume of the shipment. But some of the most destructive smuggling (for instance, pelts and organs of Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard) have a small volume that does not reflect their extreme value.

According to the Far Eastern Operative Customs Agency press release, at present serious amendments are being introduced to criminal law. Heightened criminal liability will be assigned to contraband of items restricted for trade, and for items of exceptional strategic and cultural value. This list will be approved by the government of Russian Federation. Considering the significant volume of illegal trafficking of products from endangered wildlife species listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation and in CITES Appendix 1, it is vitally important to include all these wildlife products in that list. Only this can help to prevent their poaching and smuggling across the border.

About 570 kg of sea cucumber detained on 24th November by the Far Eastern Operative Customs Agency at the border crossing “Tury Rog”
© Olga Sass / WWF Russia