Delta firm files lawsuit asking US exporter to take back red-eared slider turtless

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A Mekong Delta seafood company that imported 40 tons of invasive red-eared slider turtles has asked a local court to make the US exporter take back or destroy the creatures.

The Can Tho Seafood Import and Export Company (Caseamex) late last month filed a lawsuit with the Can Tho People's Court, asking Oakland Ninja Company to take back or destroy all the turtles still alive, under a contract they signed on February 25.

The court said it tried to have the two companies negotiate with each other once but the US firm did not cooperate.

Earlier, the Can Tho company that imported the turtles in April had many times asked for more time to solve the problem as the US company refused to take back the turtles.

Nine tons of the imported turtles have died in an unsuitable enviroment while waiting for the problem to be solved. The turtles were first sent to Vinh Long Province to be bred for meat but authorities ordered that they are returned or destroyed.

It is said that the species is likely to invade the habitat of local turtles and that it can cause typhoid.

Officials from Vinh Long Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said they're worried some red-eared turtles in the shipment had laid eggs that might have been swept into local water ways.

"If the General Fisheries Office (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) gives more time to solve the turtle problem and wait for the court's decision, it will be a big problem for local authorities who do not want to let the red-eared turtles spread out into the local environment," a Vinh Long official said.

Caseamex has not presented a permit allowing it to import the turltes but said it didn't know the turtles are harmful when importing them.

The red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) is native to North America and was included in the list of the world's 100 worst invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) - a global network of scientific and policy experts on invasive species, organized under the auspices of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Vietnamese experts earlier said the country lacks legal backing and scientific wherewithal to deal with invasive species from overseas.

The consequences have been seen with the Mimosa pigra (Giant Sensitive Tree) or "mai duong" in Vietnamese, an American invasive species and one of the world's worst environmental weeds; and the yellow snails (oc buou vang) that has become the nemesis of rice and water spinach.

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