POLICE in Spain have shut down 16 illegal operations that were fishing for baby eels in the environmentally sensitive mouth of the River Guadalquivir.
Baby eels, or elvers, are a highly lucrative catch, especially on the Asian black market.
Criminal gangs have made millions smuggling the still live creatures by air to sell on in Asian markets, as reported by the Olive Press.
But fishermen have to use nets with a mesh of just 1mm to catch the glass eels that fetch the highest price. These scoop up all aquatic wildlife along with the elvers, causing untold damage to the ecosystem.
The Guardia Civil carried out the second phase of operation Ave Fenix, saying the practice represents a serious threat to life, biodiversity, legal fishing, river traffic and the safety of navigation.
Eighteen complaints have been made and 16 sets of specialised fishing rigs seized.
The mouth of the Guadalquivir is a fishing reserve, declared as a very sensitive biological and ecological area.
Fishing for endangered glass eels is totally prohibited in the rivers and coastal waters of Andalucia.