Three people were arrested in Belgium in a probe into a trafficking network smuggling glass eels into Asia, the Belgian ministry for public health, safety of the food chain and the environment said Monday in a statement.
150 kilos of glass eels, which are considered a delicacy in some Asian countries, were seized.
The Belgian bust was part of a wider operation in France, Spain and Poland, in which 27 people were arrested in total and “deals a serious blow to the trafficking of this regulated species,” the French police said in a statement.
The EU banned the export of glass eels, which are threatened with extinction, in 2010.
But the demand remains high in Asia, where these can be sold for more than €5,000 a kilogram on the black market — compared with around €800 in Europe.
Investigators estimated that the European trafficking ring was responsible for exporting more than 4 metric tons of glass eels to Asia between 2021 and 2023, making over €1.1 million in profit, the French statement said.