NOAA 2002-R131
Contact: Gordon Helm
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service Office for Law Enforcement recently seized an illegal shipment of 5,000 raw seal skins at the port facility in Port Elizabeth, N.J. The Cape Fur seal skins were en route from Namibia to Canada via the United States for processing before their final destination in markets in Europe and China. The skins had an estimated market value of $50,000. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an agency of the Commerce Department.

The NOAA law enforcement agents are still investigating the case, so more detail is not available. Imports of marine mammal parts into the United States is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, unless prior approval and a permit is granted by NOAA Fisheries.

"It is illegal to import seal skins and other marine mammal parts into the country without a certain NOAA permit granted under rule of the Marine Mammal Protection Act," said special agent Jeff Ray, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement - Northeast. "Illegal trade in endangered or threatened wildlife continues to be a problem that NOAA Fisheries takes seriously. Seizures like this should be a warning sign to others who traffic in marine mammal parts."

Namibia commercially hunts the Cape Fur seal, also known as the South African Fur seal. Its population on the African continent is thought to number around 2 million. The Cape Fur seal is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Appendix II listed species are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but trade is controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

The NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement worked closely with agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Customs Service in this seizure.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

Learn more about NOAA Fisheries at:

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: