US SEIZES EXOTIC FRUIT AT CANADIAN BORDER

US SEIZES EXOTIC FRUIT AT CANADIAN BORDER

A stepped-up pest-inspection program resulted in the seizure of 200 pounds of quarantined exotic fruit from a private vehicle crossing the Canadian border into Blaine, Wash., earlier this month.

It was one of the largest such seizures by U.S. Department of Agriculture plant protection and quarantine officials at the border point.Inspectors found 12 potentially damaging pests in the van driven by a San Francisco man who appeared to have purchased the illegal fruit in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the intention of reselling it in San Francisco.

Included among the pests found in the confiscated fruit were the larvae of the Oriental fruit fly, a major threat to agricultural crops in California.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture, concerned about potential infestations from Canadian fruit, has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to intensify border inspection efforts.

There are 29 USDA plant and fruit inspectors in the Blaine area, said Susann Irwin, supervisor of the plant protection and quarantine unit there. Generally, the confiscations come from tourists returning to the United States with small amounts of fruit, she said. Fines can range up to $100.00 if the fruit is hidden.

The San Francisco man, who was unidentified, was fined at the commercial civil penalty rate of $250 for smuggling illegal fruit. California laws allow for civil fines of up to $25,000 for smuggling quarantined agricultural commodities. It was unclear whether the man will be prosecuted further under California law.

"We've had a couple of others fairly close" to the size of the 200-pound seizure, said Ms. Irwin. "There'll be more. In the summer we make quite a few seizures," she said.

"Many fruit-fly-carrying exotic fruits are sold at markets in Canada with no legal restrictions," said Isi Siddiqui, director of the CDFA's division of plant industry. That's because the Canadian climate is considered too cold for the exotic pests to breed, he continued. "When the pests are transported to the warm growth climate in California, fruit flies and other damaging pests can proliferate, resulting in severe economic damage to the nearly 250 commercial crops produced in our state."

The pests were alive when the USDA officials found them in Blaine, said John Wymond, a plant protection and quarantine officer. "This was one of our biggest seizures," he said. "This one was a little unusual because it was getting into a commercial size. Seizures are a daily occurrence, but the

average seizure is a couple of pounds."

Once the fruit is seized, the USDA keeps a record of what was in the fruit, then it and the pests are destroyed in a big garbage disposal, said Mr. Wymond.

The fruit confiscated in Blaine included lychees, longans, mangosteens, durians, annonas or cherimoyas and rambutans. None can be imported into the United States without special permits and treatment.