Spanish and Portuguese authorities on Friday said that they have taken down a criminal network that made large profits by smuggling glass eels to Asia.
Authorities across the continent have been trying to tackle the smugglers, who take European glass eels to Asian countries, where they are raised into adults and their meat commands high prices for local delicacies.
Trade in the European eel has been restricted since 2009 under the rules of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The EU has banned all exports outside the union and regulated internal sales, although an underground black market in eels has thrived in recent years.
In the latest operation, four Chinese citizens, three Spaniards and three Moroccans were arrested in Spain in an operation coordinated by Europol.
The Spanish Civil Guard said that 460kg of glass eels were seized in southern Spain, adding that their market value, once the eels have grown into adults, is estimated at more than 400 million euros (US$492 million).
One kilogram of baby eels could yield 1.3 tonnes of adult eels, investigators said.
More than 100 tonnes of juvenile eels evade wildlife traffic controls every year in Europe, Sustainable Eel Group chairman Andrew Kerr said.
“That’s nearly one-fourth of the total European eel natural stock,” Kerr said on Friday. “It’s the biggest wildlife crime action in Europe and it’s hidden from everyone.”
Friday’s disclosure showed how the ring exported the baby eels bought in Spain through Portugal and Morocco, and how the eels were concealed in suitcases or in cargo containers and sent to Hong Kong, China, South Korea and other Asian markets.
Police also seized 364 suitcases possibly used to smuggle the eels, Spanish Civil Guard Colonel Jesus Galvez told reporters in Madrid.
Because eels cannot be bred in captivity, the wriggling glass eels —or elvers — are usually fished and raised to maturity at aquaculture farms in Asia, where pollution, climate change and poaching has diminished stocks of the Japonica Anguilla species.
Since the glass eel fishing season began at the end of the fall, Portugal has arrested 28 people and seized 1 tonne of glass eels during 18 raids.
Meanwhile, Spain has since November arrested or identified as suspects 89 people, confiscating more than 2.3 tonnes of baby eels.
The seized eels have been reintroduced to the wild, Galvez said.
Europol European Serious and Organized Crime Centre Head Jari Liukku compared the benefits from illicit wildlife trading to those of drug, arms or human trafficking.
“Punishments are low and the conviction rate for environmental crimes is still low,” he said.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) removed former minister of foreign affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) from his post after an investigation concluded that he had conducted an affair and fathered a child while serving as ambassador to the US, the Wall Street Journal reported. Top officials were told in August that a CCP inquiry into Qin uncovered “lifestyle issues,” the newspaper reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the situation that it did not describe. That phrase usually means sexual misbehavior of some type in the parlance of Chinese officialdom. Two of the people said the affair led to the birth of a child in
GUNNED DOWN: The Canadian PM said there were credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey on June 18 India yesterday dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as “absurd,” expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and accusing Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs. It came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described what he called credible allegations that India was connected to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate of Sikh independence from India who was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, and Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a
SECURITY: Wang met with the US national security adviser in Malta over the weekend, with the US side noting the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) yesterday headed to Russia for security talks after two days of meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan over the weekend in Malta. China’s top foreign policy official will be in Russia until Thursday for a round of China-Russia strategic security consultations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a brief statement. The US and China are at odds over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China has refrained from taking sides in the war, saying that while a country’s territory must be respected, the West needs to consider Russia’s security concerns about NATO’s
LOST BATTLE: The Varroa mite, which Canberra has called the ‘most serious pest’ to face bees, would cause serious economic damage, an ecologist said Australia yesterday abandoned its fight to eradicate the destructive Varroa mite, an invasive parasite responsible for the collapse of honeybee populations across the planet. Desperate to keep Varroa out of the country, authorities have destroyed more than 14,000 infected beehives since the tiny red-brown pest was first detected north of Sydney in June last year. The government said its US$64 million eradication plan could not stop the mite from spreading, and the country’s beekeepers should now prepare to live with the incursion. “The recent spike in new detections have made it clear that the Varroa mite infestation is more widespread and has