Reeling in gillty biosecurity offenders

Joint media release

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Australian Border Force

A male international passenger recently cast themselves into a sea of trouble after trying to bring live fighting fish, snails and shrimp into the country.

Biosecurity officers at Sydney International Airport x-rayed the man’s luggage and Australian Border Force (ABF) officers were then consulted as the x-ray revealed live creatures.

Head of biosecurity operations at the Department of Agricultur​e and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said the passenger arrived from Vietnam and did not declare any of the fishy items they were carrying.

“We take intentional breaches of Australia’s biosecurity very seriously and actively pursue and prosecute offenders,” Mr Padovan said.

“Biosecurity officers searched the passenger’s luggage and found five foam boxes that contained plastic bags with two live fighting fish, a quantity of live snails and live shrimp inside.

“These pose a significant biosecurity risk as they could have been carrying a range of pests or diseases that can impact our $2.8 billion fisheries industries, as well as our unique marine environment.

“Our biosecurity officers worked closely with the Australian Border Force at the time of the interception and the passenger was issued with an infringement notice for providing false or misleading information.

“The matter concerning the illegal importation of the live animals has been referred to the department’s Enforcement Section for further investigation.

“Biosecurity is a shared responsibility and everyone has a role to play—but this case demonstrates the strong measures we have in place when people try to breach our conditions.”

The illegal importation of animals carries a maximum fine of up to A$420,000 and 10 years imprisonment.

ABF Regional Commander NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said this detection shows the efficacy of collaborative effort between the two departments.

“As long as people continue to try and bring undesirable products across our borders, we will continue to stop them.”

“We are always finding new and unusual things that people are trying to smuggle into the country and our officers are well trained to identify and seize anything that shouldn’t be coming through the border.”

For more information on what can and cannot be brought into Australia from overseas, visit

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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