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Stroke of luck for the resettlement of Catalan rivers with eels

The Catalan Government and the Guardia Civil release 500 kilograms of eels – ten times more than in a regular year – seized from traffickers that wanted to export them to Asia, where this species is extremely coveted and where approximately 1300 euros is paid per kilo, way above the average prices that are paid in Europe

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16 July 2012 09:54 PM

by

Bertran Cazorla / Pol Bernat / CNA

Badalona (ACN).- Catalan rivers have had a lucky windfall after half a ton of eels captured by the Guardia Civil were poured into ten Catalan rivers. The eels were going to be sent to Asia, where this species is extremely coveted and where approximately 1300 euros is paid per kilo, way above the average prices that are paid in Europe, where the price is about 500 euros per kilo.


As soon as the eels were seized, the Guardia Civil and the technicians realized the value of the acquisition: approximately 1,650,000 million euros. That\u2019s why the 772 kilograms of fish that were still alive were sent to a hatchery, owned by the Catalan Government in Sant Carles de la Ràpita, in the south of Catalonia. There, the eels grew until they changed color from transparent to black. Turning black is an indicator of maturity which allows them to be safely released. Half a ton of eels were released into 10 Catalan rivers. Most in the Delta de l\u2019Ebre, the largest wetland of Catalonia situated in the south of the country. 25 kilograms of eels were released into the river Llobregat, while at Fluvià, 70 kilos of eels were released. The same amount was deposited in the Ter and Muga rivers. The Tordera received 20 kilos. Besòs got ten kilos and ten more were released into the river Francolí. The remaining 222 kilos will be released outside Catalonia. The fish will stay in the rivers until they\u2019ve grown enough to begin their journey to the sea to breed. This is the opposite to what salmons do in colder places, said Jesus Gómez, of the Department of Agriculture, who indicated that a kilo of young eels may contain about 200 fish. Gómez also explained the difficulties that the Catalan Government has when it\u2019s time to resettle the Catalan rivers. According to a mandate by the European Union (EU), the eels have to be protected because they are highly coveted. This is because the eels are a species of fish that does not breed in captivity and that is why they have to be caught. This makes the supply scarce so that prices shoot up. To get specimens for the resettlement, the Catalan Government forces the fishermen \u2013that can catch as many eels as they want between November and March\u2013 to give a part of their booty to the Government. Thus, the technicians can release between 50 and 70 kilos of eels into the rivers annually, said Gómez. The eels are caught in the sea and then taken to the rivers to make the resettlement easier. This half a ton of eels would have ended up in Filipino hands. The 14 traffickers, who were arrested in late March as part of operation \u2018Suculenta\u2019 in Tarragona \u2013 and in other regions in the north of Spain, such as Asturias, Euskadi and Galicia \u2013 wanted to send the eels to the Philippines. The operation helped to dismantle an illegal network that has been working with this type of illegal livestock commerce between the EU and several Asian countries. The Guardia Civil officers began to suspect something when they detected shipments to Asia that were declared as cargo of \u2018unprotected\u2019 fried fish, but that actually contained eels. Eventually, after research that included DNA testing of the animals, the Guardia Civil managed to stop the traffickers. The group bought, in irregular fashion, the product from Galician and Portuguese fishermen. The arrested members were accused of various crimes, including trafficking and forgery. The operation is part of a European Union project to resettle eels in rivers. In the EU, the sale of this type of fish to other countries is banned.

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  • Half a ton of eels were released into 10 Catalan rivers (by ACN)

  • Half a ton of eels were released into 10 Catalan rivers (by ACN)