Research ArticleECOLOGY

Prevalence of critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla) in Hong Kong supermarkets

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Science Advances  04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 10, eaay0317
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay0317


European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a critically endangered species requiring CITES permits for international trade. Despite the fact that no imports to Hong Kong were declared within the last 2 years, our study found that this species is still commonly sold in major supermarket chains across Hong Kong. In a COI barcoding survey of 49 retail vendors encompassing 13 brands, 9 of 13 carried A. anguilla, and 45% of all eel products available at retail outlets (n = 49) were unambiguously identified as A. anguilla. Considering the visual similarity of eel species and disproportionate amount of undeclared A. anguilla available for consumption, this finding raises urgent concerns regarding the enforcement of international CITES trade regulations. Furthermore, the prevalence of A. anguilla in supermarkets highlights how illicit wildlife products are not solely limited to specialized affluent buyers; some species have entered mainstream distribution networks for the average consumer.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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