The Civil Guard detains and investigates 16 people dedicated to illegal trafficking in European angula

They have intervened 400 kilos of eels that have managed to reintroduce into the natural environment

According to the CITES assessment report, the angles intervened could have had a value of 600,000 euros in the Asian market

The Civil Guard, within the framework of Operation FAME, has arrested and investigated 16 people from four organized groups dedicated to illegal trafficking of European eel illegally obtained in France and Spain and operating in the provinces of Guipúzcoa, Madrid and Asturias.

One of the organized groups, located in Asturias, introduced undeclared angles from France, and, together with those acquired, legally and illegally in Asturian rivers and the Basque Country, were sent to Portugal by taxi to avoid their control. Once in Portugal, they were illegally exported by plane, in suitcases billed by "mules" of Asian origin.

On the other hand, the organization resident in Madrid preferred to send larger quantities of eels declaring them as another type of fish, shellfish or, even, as veal, through air cargo. From the investigations, his intention to camouflage them in beer barrels is known.

The 400 kilos of angles intervened during the operation were reintroduced into waters of the Bidasoa and Orio rivers in collaboration with the Environmental Agents of the Governments of Navarra and Guipúzcoa, respectively.

According to the valuation report of the CITES Administrative Authority, a price of € 1,500 / kg was established for the 2018-2019 season in the Asian market, so that the angles intervened would have a value of 600,000 euros. In addition, according to estimates made by the Civil Guard, the four criminal organizations investigated could have obtained annual benefits of over 6 million euros.

On the other hand, it should be noted that this operation occurs coinciding with the start of the next angula fishing campaign.

Fight against the illegal trade of European eel

Since October 2018 and completion in April 2019, within the framework of Operation Lake, coordinated by Europol, and led by SEPRONA in Spain since 2016, a wide variety of services have been developed in all Autonomous Communities coastal, trying to cover all possible illegal variants linked to the fishing of this peculiar species, as well as the control of luggage and merchandise in ports and airports with international destinations, and criminal investigations against the networks of Asian citizens settled in Europe. The results of this last operation stand out, with 448 actions, 154 detainees and 5789 kilos intervened at European level.

It is noteworthy that in May 2019 the first sentence against this illegal traffic was published, 5 people and 3 companies being convicted, with penalties that amounted to 23 months in prison and 1.5 million euros in fines.

In addition to the participation of Seprona in the European-level operation "LAKE", which is already considering its fifth edition, it is also part of the device called Eel-licit established to detect the return of the fry expelled in Europe once it has become eel and processed Its consumption in Asian territory.

The problem of the European eel

At the beginning of the 21st century, different scientific studies show a significant decrease in the population of the European eel, due to the overexploitation of fishing. The situation led the European authorities to request the inclusion of the species in the CITES Convention, and its entry in Appendix II was approved.

However, although this measure evidently helped to control commercial activity, it was still insufficient for what CITES protection achieved in 2009, in 2010 the zero quota was approved, implying that it was not possible to trade internationally with this species.

This operation is part of the specific activities for the reduction of wildlife crimes and habitat destruction planned by the LIFE Project Guardians of Nature against environmental crime, funded by the European Union, and in the Spanish Action Plan against Illegal trafficking and international poaching of wild species (TIFIES Plan).

The investigation, coordinated by Europol, has been developed by agents belonging to the Central Operating Environment Unit (UCOMA) of the SEPRONA of the Civil Guard. The operations have been in collaboration with ASAE (Portugal) and OCLAESP (France).


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