ELI’s executive director Andrea Crosta Joined Italian Embassy in DC and U.S Experts in a Bilateral Collaboration to Protect Oceans and Marine Life
This month, the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C organized a virtual panel that highlighted the collaboration and cooperation between Italy and the United States in their commitment to protect oceans, marine life and habitats.
The event was opened by Armando Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy to the United States, and Nicole LeBoeuf, Acting Assistant Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was moderated by Valerie Craig, Interim Chief of the Science and Innovation Office at National Geographic.
Featured in the panel was Andrea Crosta, executive director of Earth League International, along with Cynthia Smith, executive director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, among others.
Mr. Crosta, among other ELI’s activities, presented Operation Fake Gold, the most important investigative and intelligence operation to date on totoaba illegal fishing in Mexico and China, and the impact on totoaba trafficking on the endangered vaquita porpoise.
The retail price of totoaba maw on the black Chinese market has been recently quoted up to USD 46 per gram in China. The price of gold is currently hovering around USD 40 per gram. This is why totoaba maw can be considered ‘fake gold’ and why the totoaba fish became swimming gold for Mexico’s fishermen. A fisherman in San Felipe, Mexico, can earn more in one night catching a few totoabas than they may otherwise earn in a year.
Through Operation Fake Gold, Earth League International has identified what can only be described as “Totoaba Cartels” in Mexico.
Our investigation has found that these cartels are led primarily by three Mexican criminals who fund the Mexican poachers, and then sell the swim bladders to a group of well-connected Chinese traders and businessmen residing in Mexico. It is those Chinese traders that facilitate the smuggling of totoaba maws to China – the top of the supply chain.