BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A California man has been fined $50,000 in Vermont for illegally importing carvings made from sperm whale teeth and walrus tusk across the U.S.-Canadian border, federal prosecutors said.
The man and his wife arrived at the Highgate Springs border crossing after buying nine Inuit carvings from an art gallery in Montreal, according to court papers. He told a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer that he was bringing back one stone statue from Quebec, court papers said. The officer inspected the trunk and found nine statues, including four made of ivory, the Vermont U.S. attorney’s office said.
The man, who was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the time, admitted that the four were made from walrus tusk and Customs and Border Protection seized them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later determined that three of those carvings were made of sperm whale teeth and the fourth was made of walrus tusk, prosecutors said.
The 69-year-old man on Tuesday pleaded guilty in federal court in Burlington to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully importing wildlife parts and was sentenced to a fine of $50,000. A phone message was left with his attorney, seeking comment.
Sperm whales are an endangered species and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and, like walruses, are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Certain import and export permits are required to import parts from these protected mammals into the U.S., which the man had not obtained, prosecutors said.
(Copyright (c) 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)