CITES Secretary-General's Certificate of Commendation awarded to Europol for successful law enforcement operation to address illegal trade in European eel

Updated on 13 November 2023


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Geneva, 9 November 2023 Today, the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) awarded a Certificate of Commendation to Europol in recognition of exemplary inter-agency coordination and operational activities undertaken during the latest edition of Operation LAKE, a joint operation that targeted  the trafficking of European eel.  

Coordinated by Europol,  this latest edition of Operation LAKE that ran from October 2022 to June 2023. It targeted organized crime groups engaged in international trafficking of the protected European glass eel (Anguilla anguilla).

This latest edition of Operation LAKE  led to the arrest of 256 persons responsible for the trafficking of approximately 25 tonnes of live glass eels. The Operation marked a new record as the most successful yet in addressing international glass eel trafficking. Working closely with countries from both within and outside the European Union, Europol’s activities included hosting a virtual command post, facilitating information exchange, providing analytical and forensic support to national law enforcement authorities, deploying experts to identified hot spots to cross-check operational information in real time against Europol’s databases and providing leads to investigators in the field.

The CITES Secretary-General, Ms Ivonne Higuero presented the Certificate of Commendation to Deputy Executive Director Operations at Europol, Mr Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, during an award ceremony held at the 77th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, taking place in Geneva this week. 

Accepting the Certificate of Commendation, Mr Lecouffe, stated: “I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to CITES for recognising our work and bestowing this honour upon us. Europol has built its knowledge and expertise on environmental crime through the investigations it supports. Operation Lake targeting the trafficking of glass eels is one such coordinated action, with over 30 countries joining the latest edition in 2023. In this field more than ever, international cooperation is paramount – our success is not solely down to our work, but is also made possible thanks to the collaboration and support we have received from the Member States that are very active in the field of environmental preservation. It takes a network to defeat the criminal networks. Together, we can be the driving force for a sustainable future.”

CITES Secretary-General, Ms Ivonne Higuero said: “We commend Europol for the outstanding coordination efforts and activities conducted during Operation LAKE, leading to excellent results. This operation disrupted the organized criminal networks involved in the trafficking of European glass eels, a species listed under CITES Appendix II. CITES Parties recognize the importance and value of collaborative law enforcement work and the importance of this is also exemplified by the successes achieved during Operation LAKE. The CITES Secretariat understands that multiple countries and agencies contributed to the overall success of Operation LAKE and believes that the award to Europol would also serve as a recognition of their efforts and as an inspiration to them.”

The participating countries and agencies for this operation included: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic,  Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, Moldova, Morocco, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, DG SANTE (Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety), EFCA (European Fisheries Control Agency), Eurojust, OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) and INTERPOL.

For more information, read Europol’s press release on Operation LAKE. 


Editor's Notes:

The CITES Secretariat can provide the contact details of experts to talk with on any of the above issues after the meeting. For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact Mr. Salehin Khan at +41 79471 66 48 or [email protected].   

For media accreditation to the meeting, please follow this link and apply as soon as possible.

Photo: © IISD/ENB - Kiara Worth



The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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