NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – A New York seafood dealer has pleaded guilty to federal charges of trafficking more than $150,000 worth of baby eels.
Federal prosecutors say Tommy Water Zhou, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of illegally selling or purchasing baby eels, called elvers, in interstate commerce after they had been illegally harvested in Virginia.
Baby eels are valuable because Asian aquaculture companies buy them for use as food. Fishermen sometimes sell them for more than $2,000 per pound at the dock. They can be legally harvested only in Maine and South Carolina.
Prosecutors say Zhou obtained a Maine elver dealer license in 2013 and then used it to cover his illegal operation.
Zhou is set to be sentenced on July 12. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and fines.