How A European Crime Ring Selling Illegal Tuna Was Caught Red Handed

Source: National Geographic/Dina Fine Maron

Photo: Danilo Cedrone/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons


Atlantic bluefin tuna are one of the world’s largest, fastest, and arguably tastiest fish. Prized for sushi as well as tuna steaks, these metallic-hued predators can weigh in at more than a thousand pounds. And the illicit market for them can mean big money.

A multi-country organized crime ring dealing in more than 2,000 tons of tuna annually, or more than 10 times the weight of a blue whale, was recently uncovered by the European Union’s law enforcement agency. Europol’s explosive findings suggest that the volume of illicit bluefin tuna sold in Europe is likely double that of the legal tuna trade.

Following a months-long investigation across Spain, Portugal, France, Malta, and Italy, Spanish officials arrested 79 people and seized more than 170,000 pounds of tuna. Police also picked up seven luxury vehicles and half a million Euros (about $575,000 dollars) in cash. Announced this week by Europol, the arrests took place in Spain at the end of June.

The tuna probe was called Operation Tarantelo, a nod to a particularly valued cut from the back of the fish, says Jose Alfaro, Europol’s Environmental Crime Specialist.

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Photo: Danilo Cedrone/NOAA/Wikimedia Commons

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