Hong Kong and mainland authorities have seized about $540,000 worth of smuggled Australian lobsters believed to be bound for the mainland, after China restricted imports of the crustacean amid escalating tensions with Australia.
Hong Kong authorities said at a news conference Friday that its customs and Chinese law enforcement agencies confiscated about 5,300 kilograms (11,650 pounds) of lobsters and arrested 13 people.
The seizure came after a recent surge in the import volume of Australian lobsters to Hong Kong, after China imposed an unofficial ban on the imports late last year. Officials said monthly imports of Australian lobster to Hong Kong have since more than doubled.
China's lobster ban came after the Australian government pushed for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. China has since blocked trade on other Australian imports, such as wine, barley, cotton and coal.
“We believe that smuggling syndicates might make use of improper means to smuggle Australian lobsters to mainland China to seek profit,” said Rita Li of Hong Kong's Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau.
She said the shortage of Australian lobsters on the mainland has fueled the smuggling via Hong Kong.