Canadian authorities seize smuggled elvers worth over USD 350,000 at Toronto airport

Two Canadian officers posing with bags of smuggled elvers
Canadian authorities found bags containing smuggled elvers worth an estimated CAD 400,000 to CAD 500,000 at the Toronto airport | Photo courtesy of the Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans
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The Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reported that fishery officers, along with border officers serving with the Canada Border Services Agency, seized roughly 109 kilograms of elvers at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.

In March 2024, DFO Minister Diane Lebouthillier canceled the country’s elver fishery after a chaotic 2023 season, which was marred by media reports of violence and criminal activity and multiple instances of the DFO busting poachers and smugglers.  

The seized elvers, estimated to be worth between CAD 400,000 and CAD 500,000 (USD 292,800 and USD 366,000, EUR 269,000 and EUR 337,000), were poached and destined to be shipped overseas, according to the DFO. 

"The magnitude of this elver seizure is an important development. It reflects all the work done by Fisheries and Oceans Canada but also the team effort of a wide range of agencies and departments involved across government,” Lebouthillier said. “Once again, our message is crystal clear: Do not travel to Nova Scotia to illegally fish or export elvers this year; enforcement officers will be waiting for you."

The DFO began announcing arrests and seizures on rivers for unauthorized elver fishing in March and announced it arrested five individuals under investigation for infractions related to unauthorized elver harvesting. Fishery officers also seized two vehicles, a fyke net, eight dip nets, elver fishing equipment, and 1.14 kilograms of elvers.

So far in 2024, federal data shows 149 people have been arrested for elver-related crimes and nearly 208 kilograms of poached elvers have been seized, the CBC reported.

As Canada struggles with elver poaching, the U.S. state of Maine has reported fishers in the state have sold 9,631 pounds of elvers to dealers, with a reported value of just under USD 12 million (EUR 11 million), at an average price of USD 1,246 (EUR 1,147) per pound.

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