Blogs & Comment

Conched out

After years of apparent dormancy, a joint Canada-U.S. wildlife enforcement initiative convicts another smuggler of endangered mollusks.

Ramón Placeres, owner of Placeres & Sons Seafood, was also one of the people targeted in Operation Shell Game. (Photo: Noelle Th




Three years ago I wrote a story about Operation Shell Game, a joint U.S.-Canada investigation by wildlife officials into a multinational seafood smuggling ring. A variety of companies and individuals were involved in the illegal harvesting, smuggling and selling of queen conch, an endangered mollusk. Participants ranged from seemingly hapless seafood dealers to a Colombian cocaine smuggler. This informal network spanned from South America to Ontario.

After several years of appearing completely dormant, Operation Shell Game has nabbed another victim. In late September Michael Angelakis of Laval, Quebec was found guilty in Montréal Provincial Court of illegally importing queen conch into Canada without a valid permit. (Found in Caribbean waters, the species is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Anyone wishing to ship internationally therefore needs a CITES permit.) Angelakis was fined $40,000 and granted an absolute discharge.