When traveling to the Caribbean please consider the following tips:
Be Informed, Buy Informed. When you travel outside of the United States, it is important to think about what you are buying. Just because you find an item for sale does not mean you can legally bring it home to the United States. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts for family and friends, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain a plant or animal product, such as leather, wood, feathers, bone, shell, or coral? If so, is it clearly labeled—can you identify the species of wildlife or plant? Is it made from a species that is protected under national or international laws? Was the animal or plant harvested sustainably? Was it produced legally? Permits may be required to lawfully bring wildlife or plants, including parts and products, into the United States. Even if a permit isn’t required, if you cannot provide documentation showing the species of wildlife or plant, you may not be able to demonstrate that the item can lawfully enter the United States. By making informed choices, you can avoid having your souvenir confiscated upon returning home or paying a fine. If you don’t know, don’t buy!
Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. These sustainable travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife and the environment.
Buy local products and support the local economy. Tourism is a large source of income for many local communities abroad. Support these local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain wildlife products.
Be Informed, Buy Informed. Help Protect Wildlife.
International trade in all sea turtle products is prohibited, and most Caribbean countries ban domestic sale, but poaching and commercial use remain serious threats. Please do not buy any items made of sea turtle, such as tortoiseshell items (jewelry, hairpins, etc.) or leather goods (wallets, belts, etc.). Over-collection has contributed to the decline of these turtles, and now all six species found in the region are endangered. Learn more about our work to conserve sea turtles.
Many Caribbean countries have laws protecting coral reefs. Many nations limit the collection, sale, and export of live coral and coral products. Consult local authorities before buying coral souvenirs, jewelry, or aquarium decorations. Dried coral sold in stores as souvenirs, jewelry, and aquarium decorations may require permits or be banned from export. Learn more.
Check country laws before beachcombing or collecting shells. Certain countries limit the collection, sale and export of shell and shell products. Import restrictions may also apply.
The United States prohibits the import of feathers and most parts of wild birds, with limited exceptions that require a permit. Even though some birds (particularly parrots) can make engaging pets, in most cases you cannot buy a wild bird in another country and lawfully bring it home with you. Learn more about traveling with a pet bird that you already own.
Many countries now regulate collection and export of queen conch meat and shells. Populations of queen conch in most areas of the Caribbean have declined due to intensive fishing for their meat and collection for their rare pearls and their shells, which are sold whole or made into carvings or jewelry. Import restrictions may also apply (for example, queen conch shells from a number of Caribbean countries cannot be imported into the United States). Learn more about queen conch.
Reptiles are traded as pets. Their parts, particularly their skins, are used for leather products such as shoes, wallets, handbags, and watchbands. Many products are made from reptiles from sustainably harvested populations, but some species in trade are protected and may be subject to export restrictions. Learn more.
You can find mounted butterflies, moths, and other insects for sale in the Caribbean, and you may need permits to bring these items home. Learn more about USDA-APHIS requirements and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requirements.
Plants, such as orchids, cacti, and cycads, may be subject to national and international conservation laws as well as strict pest regulations. Many countries inspect imported plants and require documents certifying that they are pest- and disease-free. Before you collect seeds or buy live plants to bring home, remember that species introduced into new places can become invasive, crowding out and endangering native plants. The importation of plants is additionally regulated by USDA-APHIS. Learn more.
If you’re on a cruise or visit a duty-free shop, you may have an opportunity to buy caviar. All sturgeon species are protected, and trade in sturgeon meat and caviar is regulated worldwide. Without a CITES permit, you may only bring home 250 grams (about 8.5 ounces) or less of most types of caviar per person per trip, and some types are prohibited from import altogether. Learn more about sturgeon and paddlefish.
Other wildlife and wildlife products can also be found for sale in the Caribbean. Among these are live monkeys, which are almost universally protected from trade, and products made from spotted cats, such as jaguars and ocelots, whose skins are prohibited in trade.