International crackdown on wildlife crime includes major Vancouver seizure of illegal eel meat shipment

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      As part of an international crackdown on global wildlife crime, Canadian authorities nabbed a sizeable shipment of eel meat in Vancouver.

      Environment and Climate Change Canada announced today (June 20) that its enforcement officers participated in Interpol's Operation Thunderstorm, a month-long international sting on illegal trade of wildlife, plants, and timber conducted in May.

      The operation took place in 92 countries and resulted in almost 2,000 seizures of protected animals, plants, and related products.

      In Canada, federal authorities and provincial conservation enforcement agencies conducted hundreds of inspections, including transports of live animals, complaints about habitat and wildlife destruction, checks on hunters and anglers, and border-crossing inspections.

      At the Port of Vancouver, authorities detained a shipment from Asia that consisted of 18 tons of European eel meat, which is endangered and banned from export by the European Union.

      Canadian authorities also found items ranging from shark fins to controlled snakes, as well as products, such as handbags and briefcases, made with endangered species.

      Internationally, authorities intercepted over 1,200 kilograms of raw and processed ivory; over 43 tons of wild meat, including bear, elephant, zebra, crocodile, eel, and whale; 2,700 reptiles, including alligators, crocodiles, turtles, and snakes; and approximately 4,000 birds, including ostriches, pelicans, parrots, owls, and bats.

      "By revealing how wildlife trafficking groups use the same routes as criminals involved in other crime areas—often hand in hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering, and violent crime," Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock stated in a news release, "Operation Thunderstorm sends a clear message to wildlife criminals that the world's law enforcement community is honing in on them."

      Operation Thunderstorm 2018 is the second in an international Thunder series organized by the Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.