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Eel importer nets $163,776 fine

Different eel meats mixed together in shipments from China.
Eel-KPS-iStock-Getty Images Plus
A Richmond seafood business has reeled in a hefty catch in the form of a $163,776 fine for importing critically endangered eel species products.
A Richmond seafood importer has been slapped with a $163,776 fine after pleading guilty to two counts of importing critically endangered eel species products.

These charges relate to illegal importation of significant quantities of meat of the Anguilla Anguilla or European eel.

Pacific Gateway Holding Inc. was charged with importing a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) -listed species without a permit from the country of export.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said that, between October 2017 and May 2018, enforcement officers inspected and sampled seven 21-tonne shipments of eel meat that Pacific Gateway imported from Xiamen, China arriving at the Port of Vancouver.

ECCC said Pacific Gateway declared that the shipping containers contained fillets of Anguilla rostrata, or American eel, which is not CITES-listed.

However, ECCC said, five of the seven containers inspected were found to contain what was determined to be European eel meat mixed with legally imported American eel meat.

The ECCC said the amount of European eel meat versus American eel meat in the five shipments that contained Anguilla anguilla range from a low of 6.5 percent to a high of 47.8 percent.

The 21,000- kilogram shipment had been identified as Japanese eel with a declared value of $409,968, Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Reginald Harris said in his March 3 decision.

Harris found the company has taken steps to avoid the likelihood of further offences. He said when it first became aware that their shipments were contaminated with European eels, they notified the Chinese exporter in hope it would exercise greater caution.

“Despite this notification, Pacific still experienced problems with the shipments and in response they coordinated the mid voyage return of a shipment,” Harris said. “Thereafter, and owing to their inability to stop the mixing of European eels, Pacific stopped importing eels altogether.”

The ECCC said the fine would be directed to Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

The eel meat was seized Crown for destruction to ensure that the illegally imported product is removed from the commercial market, the ECCC said.

It said European eel is often hidden in legitimate shipments of American eel. It is only through DNA analysis that the meats can distinguished.