DNA research helps map the eel mafia

DNA research helps map the eel mafia

about the episode

The European eel is doing very poorly. So the European Union has banned the import and export of animals, but that has given rise to the real eel mafia.

The lucrative illegal eel trade in which billions will go around. In June last year, 49 people were arrested for being part of a smuggling ring trying to transport eels in trunks.

Now researchers from England have conducted a DNA test to determine whether eel-containing food sold legally in Asia, North America and Europe is indeed legal. Unfortunately this was not always the case.

114 samples were analyzed and included endangered European, American and Japanese species. Among the unagi specimens they studied — a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine — 40 percent of the specimens were from endangered European freshwater eels.

Eels travel long distances to spawn in the ocean. The young animals born there then make the entire return trip to European rivers. Since you cannot easily replicate this, you cannot breed good snakes in captivity. So young eels are caught illegally in Europe and then raised on fish farms in East Asia.

A problem – we know about it thanks to this DNA research – and it’s a bigger problem than previously thought.

Read more here: DNA testing reveals endangered snakes on the list

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