For coral vendors looking to sneak one past the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service you might want to think again. The Federal Courts have sentenced one person to a year in prison along with a $500,000 for smuggling corals over a five-year span.
We have written plenty of stories about coral smuggling over the years and last Friday, the salvo was fired across the bow of vendors looking to get sneaky with CITES — break law and you will pay. Joseph Russo, co-owner of Russo’s Reef, was sentenced to serve one year and a day in prison, pay a $6,000 fine and was ordered to pay $523,835 in restitution for the corals smuggled from 2007 to 2012.
As hobbyists, we are looking for cool, unusual and rare corals and fish for our aquariums, however we need to be more conscious about the products we purchase and often rely on our vendors to ensure we are not breaking any laws.
For coral wholesalers and retailers, the competition is fierce and sometimes they can be tempted to break the rules to keep a supply of intriguing specimens flowing through their holding tanks. But with potential legislation from Hawaii and other countries putting the aquarium hobby in its sights, mistakes like this will hurt both the hobby and the environment.
We get it. We like cool, crazy and colorful corals and fish and like to one-up our buddies but at what cost? We can imagine sitting in a Federal jail for a year wondering where you are going to get $500,000 dollars and watching your whole life slip away is not worth a colorful fuzzy stick in a customer’s aquarium.
All we can say is the message has been sent and this is the perfect time for vendors to reexamine their supply chain and make sure everything is on the up-and-up.