Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

THE GUARDIAN – Illegal eel: who is pilfering Europe’s catch?

Illegal eel: who is pilfering Europe’s catch?

Author: Emma Bryce
Source: The Guardian

In January 2016, David Baker, an ecologist at The University of Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Science received an unusual package: a frozen, lumpy mass of unknown fish seized at Hong Kong airport. His job was to carry out DNA analysis on the samples to find out what they were. But in solving the mystery, he also uncovered a crime: the fish were European Eel, a species that should never have reached Hong Kong, because trading these animals between Europe and Asia is completely illegal.

“There have been four other confiscated shipments since January this year”, says Baker, whose analysis, done in collaboration with Florian Stein, a fish ecologist from the University of Potsdam in Germany, has helped government authorities to intercept the smuggled eel at the Hong Kong International Airport. Otherwise, the fish may have gone unidentified. “The difficulty for our government agents, these eels when they’re in this stage, they’re not distinctive enough to be identified at the species level,” says Baker, so DNA analysis is the only way to prove their origin. …

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