The Civil Guard leads the fight in Europe against the illegal trade in glass eels

The Lake operation coordinated by EUROPOL has been carried out in 8 member countries of the European Union

During 2018-2019 more than 400 kilos of specimens have been intervened in the national territory valued at 616,500 euros

The actions developed by Guardia Civil cover the whole range of illegal activities: from capture in rivers to export to third countries, through illicit trade

After the fishing season of the species Anguilla anguilla, European eel, eight Member States of the European Union, Portugal, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain, have participated in the fight against the spoiling of this protected species to avoid his disappearance.

This year, as a novelty, there has been the circumstance that this species has been seized in other European countries: Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Macedonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, places where organized criminal groups have been displaced as a result of pressure police
The Civil Guard is the institution of the country that leads in Europe this operation, which once the 2018-2019 campaign is over, takes stock of the actions implemented.
Since the month of October 2018 has been developing a wide variety of services in all coastal Autonomous Communities, trying to cover all the possible illicit variants linked to the fishing of this peculiar species, as well as the control of baggage and merchandise in ports and airports with international destinations, and criminal investigations against citizens' networks Asians settled in Europe.
Besides 411 kilos intervened, with a market value of more than 600,000 euros, which were later reintroduced into their natural environment, we proceeded to stop and investigate 21 people involved in different areas: from poachers to smugglers, through intermediaries.
It is noteworthy that in May 2019 the first sentence against this illegal traffic, 5 people and 3 companies were found guilty, with penalties that amounted to 23 months in prison and 1.5 million Euros in fines.
In the operations developed at the national level, different Specialties of the Civil Guard have intervened: Patrols of the Seprona, to prevent the illegal fishing of elvers, Fiscal Reserve Units, to prevent the smuggling of elvers in ports and airports and SEPRONA research teams to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations specializing in the trafficking of angula illegal eels.
The Department of the Environment of the Forensic Service of the Civil Guard analyzed 51 samples of smoked eels to determine, through the technique of non-human DNA, the belonging to said protected species, offering 4 positives to Anguilla anguilla.

The origins

At the beginning of the 21st century, different scientific studies show an important decrease in the population of Anguilla anguilla, due to the overexploitation of fishing. The situation led the European authorities to request the inclusion of the species in the CITES Convention, its entry into Appendix II being approved. However, although this measure evidently helped to control commercial activity, it was still insufficient, so CITES protection was achieved in 2009, in 2010 the zero quota was approved implying that it was not possible to trade internationally with Anguilla anguilla .
With these conditions, in the 2011-12 season, the SEPRONA of the Civil Guard carried out the Operation "SUCULENTA", A pioneer in this field and which resulted in 1,600 kilograms intervened, 14 people arrested, with the collaboration of the Bulgarian, Romanian and Portuguese Authorities. Of these people, 5 were found guilty along with 3 companies, with penalties that amounted to 23 months in prison and 1.5 million euros in fines.

Evolution of operations

Since then, almost every season has been carried out some Operation by the UCOMA (Central Operative Unit of Environment), always having elements that made each of them totally different from each other.
In "SUCULENCIAS", being the main actors Spanish citizens the guidelines were varied and a network was created in Portugal to launch the games from the neighboring country trying to avoid the possible controls that the Civil Guard had already begun to establish on merchandise.
With "BLACK GLASS" The first reference was made to the involvement of Chinese citizens who began to operate directly from Spain. Throughout the Operation it was possible to verify that the shipments were made using mules that carried the goods in the suitcases to China.
"ABAIA" It was the verification of the importance of this illegal business, proving the construction of a network in which up to five countries of the European Union were affected so that, finally, from Greece important departures left to East Asia.
The culmination of "TO SEE", the most recent, revealed the existence of Chinese networks, perfectly organized and settled in Spain and that cover all options: from minimum quantities in suitcases to lots of hundreds of kilos. The forcefulness of the data obtained allowed the judicial authorities to decree the entrance in provisional prison of the implied ones, something totally new in the scope of the conservation of species.

International projection

The work of SEPRONA of the Civil Guard throughout these years has had its most significant expression in the recognition of EUROPOL, which has been reflected in the establishment of a Operation at European level known as "LAKE", which already raises its fifth edition. At the international level, coordinated by Interpol, an operation called Eel-licit has also been established to detect the return of the fry landed in Europe once it has become an eel and processed for consumption in Asian territory.
Countries such as Portugal, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden have practiced at some point during these years with apprehensions and services against the illegal eel trade and, in all these actions, directly or indirectly, Spain has had a responsibility. , currently, chairs the Working Group to fight Illegal Trade of Anguilla anguilla in the European Commission, presidency exercised by the CITES Management Authority of Spain, with which it has worked intensively since the first operations.
In the actions in ports and airports, the Fiscal Guard of the Civil Guard has worked in collaboration with the Deputy Directorate of Customs Surveillance.
For more information, contact the Press Office of the Civil Guard, telephone 915 146 010.

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