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Two suitcases were filled with totoaba swim bladders. Two suitcases seized yesterday were filled with totoaba swim bladders.

Chinese citizens caught at airport with totoaba swim bladders

Nearly 800 bladders were seized in two incidents at Mexico City airport

In the space of just five days, two Chinese nationals have been arrested in separate incidents at Mexico City International Airport for the possession and attempted smuggling of totoaba swim bladders.

Federal Police arrested the first would-be smuggler on Saturday after he was found carrying 416 swim bladders, of which 355 were from totoaba and also known as maws.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) said in a statement that a judge ordered the Chinese citizen to stand trial and prohibited him from leaving the country.

He was also required to pay a bond and will have to report to authorities on a weekly basis while awaiting trial for transporting endemic wildlife products for commercial purposes.

The 29.7 kilograms of swim bladders found in the man’s possession have an estimated commercial value of US $238,000, being highly sought in the Chinese market where they are considered a delicacy.

The second Chinese national arrested was attempting to smuggle 417 totoaba swim bladders in two suitcases, the Federal Police said in a report.

The man, identified as Dequing, intended to board a flight yesterday from Mexico City to Tokyo, Japan, before connecting with another flight to Guangzhou, China.

However, police detained the man in terminal 1 of the airport as he attempted to pass through security.

He is currently under investigation by the special prosecutor for federal crimes, a division of the federal Attorney General’s office.

The totoaba species, the largest member of the drum family, is endemic to the Gulf of California.  Its fishing is the biggest threat to the critically endangered vaquita marina porpoise because they are often by-catch in the gillnets used to catch the lucrative fish.

Chinese traffickers are believed to collaborate with Mexican organized crime groups to traffic the bladders.

A report by the non-governmental organization Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said that criminal groups use the Mexico City International Airport as their main point of exit to export the highly-prized product to China.

Source: Crónica (sp), El Vigia (sp)

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