UK border agency officials made an unusual discovery when checking the luggage of a Chinese woman at Belfast airport.
Individually wrapped in damp tea towels and bin bags hidden among the woman's personal belongings, they uncovered five live crabs that had survived the journey from China to Belfast in the hold of the aircraft.
The well-travelled crustaceans, believed to be Chinese mitten crabs,(Eriocheir sinensis) were handed over to an official of the Department of Agriculture but unfortunately could not be saved.
Why the woman was travelling with a case of crustaceans is unknown, but Chinese mitten crabs are a popular delicacy in China, so much so that Practical Fishkeeping recently reported the installation of crab vending machines in Chinese underground stations to sell them live, 24-hours a day.
The Assistant Director of the UK Border Agency for Northern Ireland, Maggie Eyden, reminded people that many goods are restricted or banned from entering the UK: "These include live animals, endangered species of plants and animals, including souvenirs made from endangered species, certain fur skins and articles made from fur skin. Travellers should be aware that if such items are found by our officers they will be seized and people could face substantial fines."