Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
July 10, 2012
Boxes of Threatened Elvers Seized
Forty six boxes containing live elvers (young eel) were discovered in NAIA Terminal 1 yesterday, July 8. The boxes were apprehended while on the process of getting proper documents for transport via a Cathay Pacific flight bound to Hongkong. Ben Curativo, Fisheries and Inspection Quarantine Services chief at NAIA, seized the cargo.
Each box has an approximate five thousand pieces of elvers which were put in eight tightly-sealed plastic bags with air and water. All in all, the cargo containing million pieces of elvers was estimated to be worth P2M, with a price of P28,000 per kilo.
BFAR is currently coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to identify those responsible for bringing the cargo to the airport. Once the investigation is finished, the offenders will be charged for violating the Fisheries Administrative Order 242.
FAO 242 prohibits the exportation of breeders, spawners, eggs or fry. Violation of this section is punishable with time period of eight years imprisonment, confiscation of catch or a fine equivalent to double the export value of the same and revocation of fishing or export license.
On April 10, 2012, the FAO 242 was issued because of recent exponential increase in the price of these precious eel fry. Last year, the buying price for elvers was just at P2,500. Now, the price for these eels ranges between P17,000 to P28,000. This resulted in an increased number of eel gatherers in coastal towns of Cagayan. Alarmed by the exploitation of elvers, BFAR Region 2 requested for the reissuance of the ban for exporting the said eel fry.
Elvers are young eels found in different river systems across the country. Mature eels spawn in salt water. As they develop into elvers, they swim towards the fresh water. As a result of this unique behaviour, the young eels are gathered using nets on river banks and shores where the fresh water mixes with sea water. They are sold in Manila where buyers for export await. They are exported to countries like Korea, China and Taiwan where they are grown into marketable size. It is believed that grown eels’ final destination is Japan, where they are called unagi and are considered an important part of the fish diet.