The government is on the lookout for people trying to smuggle young eels out of the country as prices surge globally because of declining catches.
Eel stocks are being depleted around the world and catches of wild elvers, known as glass eels because of their transparent bodies, are rapidly declining in Asia, down from 41 tonnes to 25.2 tonnes in the last three years, according to data compiled by the Fisheries Agency.
In the same period, Taiwan’s catches have plunged to below 1 tonne per year, while prices surged to about NT$100 per eel last year, up from NT$10 per eel two decades ago.
The glass eel season began last month and disappointing catches thus far this year are set to drive up the price to NT$150 per eel.
This in turn will add to the attractiveness of smuggling young eels to Japan, where they are considered a delicacy and command premium prices, according to fishery officials.
Officials from the Council of Agriculture met their counterparts from the Aviation Police Office and the Coast Guard Administration at a conference on Tuesday to seek their help in preventing eel smuggling.
The fishery officials also said they had approached Japanese and Chinese officials in September and this month to explore the possibility of cooperating in managing and recovering eel stocks under the APEC framework.
The officials said that Japan, which boasts a thriving eel-farming industry, is trying to raise glass eels in captivity to reduce their reliance on wild catches, and has succeeded in a few cases.
Taiwan does not have the technology required to cultivate the eels, the officials said.