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RE: permits

I went through an unfortunate experience two weeks ago trying to bring fish
back from Hong Kong.  I was carrying eight small discus in two doubled,
O2-packed bags inside a shoulder bag.  I mentioned the contents of my bag to
the people at the x-ray machine at the Hong Kong airport, figuring that if I
warned them, it would look less like I was trying to smuggle out an
endangered species.  They were polite (and somwhat fascinated by the fish)
and said that they'd have to inform the airline because the flight crew
might want to stow the bag someplace warm or impervious to leaking water.

A few minutes after I boarded the plane and settled down--United Airlines,
incidentally--a flight attendant came to me and told me that I could not
take live fish on the plane.  I protested, saying that I've done this many
times, and that fish are shipped from Hong Kong on airplanes all the time.
She checked with her supervisor, and the reply was "They have to be in a box
in the cargo hold.  If they're in carry-on, they will die due to lack of
oxygen."  I explained that I knew exactly what I was doing, and that the
fish were much more likely to die if they were removed from the flight.  She
asked if there was someone in Hong Kong who I could leave them with, and I
said no.  She asked me when I was returning to Hong Kong; it seems they
would keep the bagged fish for me behind their counter so I could pick them
up when I came back in a month.  At this point I gave up and gave her my
bag.  I have no idea what happened to those fish.

I called United when I got back to the U.S. and found that they have a rule
on their books about tropical fish: all fish must be double-bagged, packed
with oxygen, in a styrofoam container inside a cardboard box.  Otherwise,
apparently, the staff gets to keep them.

The lesson here is either:
(1) check with the airline to get specific rules about carrying fish;
(2) don't tell anyone what you're carrying unless they ask; or
(3) carry an extra bag of water without fish that you can hand over in case
you're stopped.


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