Spanish man caught smuggling European eels worth HK$420,000

February 12, 2016 12:13
Airport customs have made a second seizure of European eels in two months in a crackdown on smuggling of the endangered species. Photo: HK government

A Spanish man was caught trying to smuggle European eels, an endangered species, at the Hong Kong airport on Wednesday, the second case of its kind since last month, Apple Daily reported.

Customs officials found the eels in three pieces of check-in baggage of a man who arrived in Hong Kong from Bilbao, Spain via Paris, the report said.

Total weight of the eels, which were only babies and all dead, was about 48 kilograms. They were estimated to be worth about HK$420,000 (US$53,923) in total.

In a previous case last month, customs officials seized about 109 kilograms of such European eels on January 5 at the airport and arrested three male and one female incoming passengers.

That case, as well as the latest one, was handed over to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for follow-up investigation.

Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing an endangered species without a license is liable to a maximum fine of HK$5 million and imprisonment for two years.

Ken Ching, director of Eco-Education and Resources Center, noted that large demand for eels from Japan, where local eels are already scarce, has pushed up eel prices.

With European eel prices being quoted as high as HK$8,800 per kilogram, it has encouraged smuggling.

European eel, whose number has been down by more than 90 percent since the 1970s, is now a critically endangered species.

The smuggled fish might have been transported to Japan, China or South Korea for consumption had they not been seized, Ching said.

Also on Wednesday, customs officials found two pieces of suspected scheduled animal skin in the check-in baggage of a male passenger arriving in Hong Kong from Shanghai.

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