Europol crackdown on trafficking of endangered European glass eels

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

April 9th, 2018

A pan-European operation backed by Europol has seized 350 kg of live glass eels and disrupted an organised crime ring involved in trafficking the endangered species.

Spanish and Portuguese detectives arrested ten suspected members of the gang during Operation Elvers carried out as part of Europol’s project ‘LAKE’ launched in 2016 to dismantle glass eel trafficking.

Investigators arrested four Chinese nationals, three Spaniards and three Moroccans during Operation Elvers.

According to Spanish Civil Guard Colonel Jesus Galvez, police also seized 364 suitcases supposedly used to smuggle the eels.

The Spanish-based gang, which also operated out of Portugal and Monaco, reportedly cashed in more than €37 million from smuggling hundreds of kilos of glass eel from Europe to Asia.

Glass eels are juvenile transparent eels highly-sought after in Asia as a delicacy with perceived aphrodisiac qualities.

The European eel is listed as critically endangered in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Once out of Europe, infant eels are raised to maturity and sold to eateries at a high markup. Smugglers target the endangered species as domestic stocks in Asian countries such as Japan is low, making the region a lucrative market for glass eel traffickers.

“More than 100 tonnes of glass eels are smuggled out of Europe every year, it’s the biggest wildlife crime action in Europe, and it’s hidden from everyone,” Andrew Kerr Chairperson of Sustainable Eel Group told The Associated Press. The figure equals one-fourth of the total European eel stock.

A 2011 study found that three out of 12 most financially rewarding criminal activities were linked to environmental crimes.

Darknet marketplace

The so-called ‘Darknet marketplace’ has also become a haven for illegal traffickers on which they trade endangered species and animal parts.

The ‘Darknet market’ is an unregulated part of World Wide Web where buyers can visit anonymously using unique browsers.

As much as 96 per cent of the Internet is not indexed by standard search engines, making the Deepweb, of which the Darknet is a part, about 500 times the size of the World Wide Web.

INTERPOL found 21 advertisements for wildlife products Photo: IFAW

A recent INTERPOL report found 21 advertisements on the Darknet offering rhino horn products, ivory and tiger parts between December 2016 and April 2017.

A 2015 collaborative intelligence project carried out by EnviCrimeNet, and Europol found that environmental crimes go mostly undetected due to hesitation or incompetence of law enforcement in dealing with such crimes.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Jari Liukku, Europol’s Chief for Organised Crime compared severe punishments for human, drugs, and arms trafficking to that of wildlife. “Punishments are too low, and conviction rate for environmental crimes is still low,” Mr Liukku said.

[x_author title=”About the Author”]

Related Post
Social media isn’t just affecting humans. It’s having an impact our wildlife, too.

22 June 2021 A social media trend has threatened local duck populations over the past weeks and campaigners fear the Read more

Convictions in Mayo and Wexford for illegal hare hunting

October 11th, 2019 An Garda Siochana and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have secured successful convictions relating to Read more

Man prosecuted in Limerick for possession of 26 animal traps

December 7th, 2018 A man was prosecuted for the possession and offering for sale of 26 leghold traps at Newcastle Read more

Investigation ongoing into killing of Peregrine Falcons
Peregrine Falcon Photo Alexas_Fotos/ Pixabay

August 10th, 2018 An investigation is underway in relation to the unlawful killing of two peregrine falcons in Co Louth. Read more

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.