Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Major police operation across Europe smashed international eel trafficking network

Thousand euros per kilo earnings from Trafficking

Article by ΙΩΑΝΝΑ ΜΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Greece 07 February 2017  (translated by Google Translate, edited by A Kerr)

Serious charges for criminal association and violations of environmental law and protected species were brought to a head by the Public Prosecutor of Athens against those involved in the unprecedented case of illegal trading in eels. A critically endangered species protected by law and whose movement and sale outside the EU is prohibited.

After planned and organized enforcement actions between five European countries (Greece, Spain, France, Portugal and Italy) and under the supervision of EUROJUST, (Greece participated through prosecutor Nicholas Ornerakis, while the responsibility of research was initiated through the Bureau of Finance prosecutors with the participation of anteisangeleos Helen Michalopoulou), arrested all the members of the criminal organization in Attica and province, while a barrage of arrests occurred simultaneously by the Spanish authorities.

The result of the coordinated action of the relevant departments, was the complete dismantling of the gang that operated in our country and involved mass arrests in Spain and other European countries.

The unprecedented case that mobilized the competent authorities in five European countries involved in organized illegal trade circuit of European eel bearing the name “Anguilla Anguilla”.

Profits from the illegal marketing of the eel is huge. Illustrative figures suggest €500 per kilo in the fishing country and a delivered price in China at €1500 per kilo. The profits from the trafficking of protected eel suggest €1,000 per trafficked kilo!

From the investigations carried out €7 Million was found as the gains from just the recent days trafficking – investigations continue by the public prosecutor for tax evasion and money laundering.

It all started with information received by the Spanish Europol in Athens (Customs department responsible Elytis Attica) responsible for combatting organized crime that operates in our country where illegal profits run to many millions.

The Office of Public Prosecutor (Head Univ) initiated immediately by instructing the deputy prosecutor Helen Michalopoulou to launch an investigation.

The prosecuting officer with collaboration between the authorities and principally the Economic Police initially ordered telecommunications secrecy and systematic monitoring of the parties.  Sharing the information at meetings held by Eurojust business organization in order to co-ordinated action. The raid and arrests in our country took place last Friday in Attica and region where nine people were arrested and simultaneously arrests were also made in Spain the centre or “top” of the criminal organization.

What emerged from the investigation and why the protected eel is sold

According to an information note of the Public Prosecutor Office:

Specifically, the European eel is a species protected which is threatened with extinction, so far the eel does not reproduce in captivity and overfishing of juveniles has a negative effect and contributes to the population collapse of an indicated 90% of the population. The export from the community is prohibited by the above CITES convention and allowed within the community. The eel has an extraordinary life cycle being born in the Sargasso Sea with larvae floating on the currents to Europe especially the rivers of France, Spain and Portugal. On arrival these are called glass eels and the peak is between November to March where licensed and controlled fishing is permitted it takes place at nights especially with the full moon.

The Spanish, French and Portuguese fishermen, illegally selling to a Spanish company at a price of about €500/kg (while legally the selling price is approximately €150-200). The glass eels after their capture suffer need sensitive and careful handling to minimise the extreme stress and so the Spanish company holds the fish in tanks for 48 hours to rest and stabilize the fish. After  special packaging (a little cold and well oxygenated water) they are sent as a special cargo to Barcelona in order to travel to Italy.

After the load traverses Italy (where possible and there are some transactions) transferred to Ancona in order to travel by ferry to Igoumenitsa. From there they are moved to the premises of the Greek undertaking concerned in order to rest (the glass eel withstand up to 40 hours journey) and repackaged and ready for the trip to Hong Kong. The cargo travels by plane on a flight from the international airport Eleftherios Venizelos to Hong Kong, with a stop in Istanbul (16 hours total flight time). The glass eel is sold in China at a price of about €1,500/kg, there is a huge profit margin.

Read original article here
Read greek press release here