Two Tennessee men pleaded guilty in early January to selling tusks from over 100 narwhals over a 10-year period. The sales, conducted over the Internet and directly to known collectors, reaped more than $1.5 million for the traffickers, Jay Conrad of Lakeland and Eddie Dunn of Eads. The pair obtained the narwhal tusks from a Canadian supplier, known by both men to have illegally imported the tusks from Canada into the United States. Conrad pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the District of Maine to conspiring to illegally import and traffic narwhal tusks, conspiring to launder money, and trafficking narwhal tusks, while Duns pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the District of Alaska to conspiring to traffic, and trafficking, narwhal tusks. Both men face prison time (Conrad up to 20 years and Dunn up to five) and $250,000 in fines. A third co-defendant, Andrew J. Zarauskas, is facing trial in Maine for related offenses and a fourth is facing extradition from Canada to Maine.
Narwhals are small whales with a long, straight, helical tusk protruding from the upper left jaw. The tusk is prized by collectors. The animals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means that trade in the live animals and their parts is restricted.