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Nov 20, 2023
Montreal art gallery now charged with illegally selling sperm whale teeth
On July 25, 2021, Pedro Huertas, an American doctor trying to cross from Canada into the U.S. at the Highgate Springs border crossing in Vermont, told a border guard he was bringing one $2,000 stone statue with him.
He was lying.
A search of his vehicle revealed nine bubble-wrapped packages of various sizes, one of them long and thin, others small, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. court. When border guards asked Huertas what was inside, he and his wife would not respond to their questions.
Three of the statues, U.S. authorities would later learn, were carved from sperm whale teeth and another was made of a walrus tusk. The border guards seized them.
CITES, which restricts the sale of products made from protected species, and other, country-specific laws, make it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to leave Canada with products made from whales, walruses and seals, even if they are carvings made from animals hunted legally by Inuit or from bones that are have sat in the tundra or on the shore for years.