Three Malaysian citizens tried to smuggle 300,000 living young eels in eight suitcases to Malaysia. They were arrested by Dutch border police at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, authorities said Thursday.
The trio was heading for Malaysia via Portugal. Their luggage, eight identical suitcases, caught the attention of airport security, who called in customs. “Inside the cases were [plastic] bags with water and baby eels,” the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) said in a statement.
“NVWA inspectors discovered 105 kilograms (231 pounds) of glass eels. That’s around 300,000 eels,’ the NVWA said. “The eels are to be released back into Dutch waters.”
European eels have been on Earth for 70 million years, but have become critically endangered in the last 40 years.
The trafficking of young transparent eels, known as “glass eels”, is one of the biggest, most lucrative illegal trades of protected species worldwide, according to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).
Illegal profits made with trafficking eels are estimated to be up to €3 billion in recent years, Europol said.
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