HONG KONG >> Authorities in Hong Kong and the mainland seized around $ 540,000 in smuggled Australian lobsters believed to be destined for the mainland, after China restricted shellfish imports amid escalating tensions with the Australia.
Hong Kong officials said at a press conference on Friday that its Chinese customs and law enforcement authorities confiscated around 11,650 pounds of lobster and arrested 13 people.
The seizure came after a recent increase in the volume of imports of Australian lobsters to Hong Kong, after China imposed an unofficial ban on imports late last year. Authorities said monthly imports of Australian lobster to Hong Kong have since more than doubled.
China’s lobster ban came after the Australian government called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. China has since blocked trade in other Australian imports, such as wine, barley, cotton and coal.
“We believe that the smugglers’ unions could use inappropriate means to smuggle Australian lobsters into mainland China for the purpose of profiting,” said Rita Li of the Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau in Hong Kong.
She said the shortage of Australian lobsters on the mainland had fueled smuggling via Hong Kong.