Puerto-Rican Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Protected Marine Creatures
A Puerto-Rican man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to harvesting protected invertebrates worth
hundreds of thousands of dollars and then selling them to clients in the mainland United States and abroad.
Raymond Michael Torres Ramos, 45, ran an Porto-Rico based aquarium business “Carebbean Reefers” that also operated on ebay under the username “Redragon1975.” He sent the illegally collected native Puerto-Rican saltwater creatures to his customers using commercial courier services, a statement from the US Department of Justice said.
“One of the most popular items that Torres and his business sent off-island was an organism from the genus Ricordea. These animals are known as “rics,” “polyps,” or “mushrooms” in the aquarium industry,” said the statement.
“It is illegal to harvest Ricordea, zoanthids, and anemones in Puerto Rico if the specimens are going to be sent off-island or otherwise sold commercially, nor is there a permit available to do so,” it said.
The creatures are very popular because they glow under UV lights that are typically used in high-end saltwater aquariums.
To cover up the nature of his shipments and to avoid detection from governmental inspection authorities, Torres would falsely label many of his live shipments as inanimate objects.
From 2014 till 2016 alone, he shipped over a hundred packages of Ricordea, worth some $400,000 in total.
“Prosecutions like this one are important because, by holding companies and businessmen accountable for the harm they cause to the ocean’s ecosystem, we do our part to protect our natural resources,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the District of Puerto Rico in the statement.