But when Seprona “the conservation service of the Guardia Civil” carried out this first operation eight years ago± called succulents, there was no awareness of the problem. The most common complexes that are now used, such as hiding juvenile fish in suitcases or even conditioning large trucks to remove©eels caught in Spain from Tapadillo in Greece©± to circumvent customs controls. In Taiwan and Japan, eels are fattened intensively for many years (greenhouse land ponds, hot water, oxygen, feed, etc.) to reach commercial eels from 200 g. Since its reproduction has not been carried out and the demand is very high, the local (Pacific) eel is not enough and is therefore imported from many countries (although it is not as appreciated as the native), including Spain. The Japanese are amazed when they see how we eat eels, when we could fatten beautiful eels. We like eels more and they like eels more. The problem is that eels are disappearing due to pollution and overfishing, like so many species, and due to the high price of consumption and cultivation, there is a lot of poaching in the Cantabrian and Guadiana rivers, and especially guadalquivir. Also in France and Morocco. The fishermen of El Portillo confirmed to Diario Libre that fishing in the north is intense, but that the growing eels tend to hide, so they would prematurely abandon the activity. They had just caught no more than 6 eels, less than a gram. When they started working with eels, they were considered a little less than weird on the international scene, where there was no excessive concern to dismantle something exotic and unknown at the time. Today, however, they are at the forefront of the global fight against this smuggling.
When the European Police Office (Europol) asked for help in 2015, Seprona was ± in advance. One of the keys is to treat it as an organized crime. We conduct the investigation as if it were an illegal substance,” Garcãa said. “Because at the end of the day, the trade is the same as the drug trade: it is, of course, crimes to form a criminal group, falsification of documents, money laundering, smuggling and wildlife trafficking,” he concludes. It is a company with fewer secrets than those that these animals consider science, which still does not know the life cycle of this fish and has not reached its reproduction in captivity. Eels live in fresh waters, but by the age of 10, they can travel 5,000 kilometers across the Atlantic Ocean to the Sargasso Sea, where they spawn and die. In January 2011, when this network first attempted to remove eels, trafficking of this type was something exotic, of which there was little evidence. Today, half of the EU countries are involved in the fight against this profitable smuggling, which is decimating the population of Anguilla anguilla. And the war against this illegal trade has become an “icon” of the fight against organised crime in Europe. “This is European ivory,” said Lieutenant Josã© Antonio Alfaro, Europol`s environmental crime specialist and head of coordination against the eel trade. In China, which absorbs most of this illegal market, the European eel is highly valued and the native eel is in decline. “Last year alone, there were more than 100 prisoners in Europe for this smuggling± Alfaro said.
And so far in 2019, there have been seizures in Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria. About eight tons of eels were intercepted last year± when they were to be shipped (alive) to Asia, where they are then fattened until they grow and become valuable eels. Specialized organizations calculate that this is only the tip of the iceberg and estimate ± each year or 100 tons of this energy (mainly) arrive in China to become barley. Diario Libre visited the area of Las Terrenas and Portillo on January 5 and 6, 2020 in search of eel fishermen. Movements could be observed in the same town of Las Terrenas, further east in Las Ballenas and El Portillo. In his restaurant, the classic recipe is used: “A la sartã©n, with a little oil, garlic and chilli mines. You need to move them until they are heated, only a few seconds, because if you have them on the fire for a long time, they dry and the most important thing is their creamy and snail texture. And of course, don`t be cold.
The Raciã³n Cazuelita of 150 grams is in the restaurant for about 150 euros, depending on the amount of the season and other conditions: smuggling. It is clear that Asians are interested in eating eel and will always be interested. If the market remained free, they would eat the eels we have in a short time. And instead of being appreciated by us and those who visit us, they will leave everything dry,” Zendoia explains. Adonis Mercedes is one of the fishermen who decided to organize his sector. No one comes to raise such eels. Playa Boba, in María Trinidad Sánchez, is only 15 kilometers from Naga, but the way to embrace eel fishing between the two municipalities is diametrically opposed. Fishermen in the Boba area even turn on weekdays to pull eels from the mouth of the river, and no strangers enter the activity. There are 70 in total and they are divided into groups that agree on when to fish so that everyone has a chance and the profits are evenly distributed, according to Mercedes. That`s why they want more.
The bloc`s law enforcement agency, Europol, estimates that up to 100 tonnes of eels (eels) are smuggled abroad each year, equivalent to around 350 million fish. In recent years, Europol has carried out a series of large-scale raids, including one by Spanish police, who last April arrested an eel smuggling ring in possession of 350 kilograms of eels. The mÃ©todo de envão is also©the same, with the difference that it is now hidden. An example is the operation of barajas through boxes that are packaged in the legal load to keep the interior at low temperature and thus obtain a perfect habitat for fish. “One option is to put bottles of frozen water and even dry ice in the box to knock them out as if they were in the sea,” says S. Other more demanding are oxygen injection. In any case, it is important that eels survive up to 36 hours of travel in a war against time. When they die, all is lost. Faced with the increasing control of the authorities, the ingenuity of the mafia sharpened and the suitcases arrived.
In recent years± there have been picturesque images of raids on Asian passengers with suitcases at airports. On the “other side” is S., a formal sector entrepreneur who has also©fallen into illegal trade over the ± years. A force must have support, how do you command otherwise. You need to have premises, facilities and documents to support you,” he says, while remaining anonymous when talking about what he calls “a very closed and small ± world. S. leans against a table in a hotel canteen and exposes his version of an “invisible” company. It`s a risk, but it`s very lucrative. And no one is killed,” he said. He looks like a man from the North, experienced in the fish trade, with no greater secret glamour than his whispering way of speaking: “When it was legal to export 15± years ago, we sent everyone to China.
So much so that they had too many eels and began to export to Europe. At the beginning of this contest, European farms campaigned to ban it. But it is always sent from the outside. Asian contacts are the same and they still need sex, he© says. Preparing the eels to release into the wild When the agents of Captain Vivas de la Seprona arrest five Chinese and three Spaniards in Operation Black Glass (a total of 20 people are examined), they are located between barajas airport, the villa of Torres de la Alameda and other airports and buildings in Spain (Bisca, Salamanca, Zaragoza…) 700 kilos of live eels ready to go to China, where they would be worth more than a million euros (about 1,500 euros per kilo).