Organized crime expert, – former associate researcher at CNRS -, Thierry colombie has, in recent years, investigated the “French mafia”. Since the summer of 2009, moved by the death of a horse mired in green algae on a beach in Côtes-d’Armor, the Toulousain has been interested in environmental crime, also called green crime: « It is the fourth largest source of income in the world after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking, and it is to this day sorely lacking in the production of scientific knowledge. “
Swedish Jeff Östberg illustrated the cover of “Polar vert”. He has worked for international publishers, advertising and the press (Vogue and The New Yorker, in particular). © Milan
On August 25, the author published Killer algae, a youth thriller in four volumes. Inspired by the Breton news item, the story embodied by a teenage girl living in Penestin (Morbihan) at the same time denounces the traffic in glass eels on the Channel and the Atlantic coast.
In the first scene of your thriller, which takes place in Pénestin, a rider is found lifeless, caught in the green algae. Doesn’t it recall an illustrious Breton news item?
Indeed, I was inspired by it. At the end of July 2009, I stayed in Finistère. I read in the press that a horse and a rider were found unconscious near Lannion, on the beach of Saint-Michel-en-Greve (Côtes-d’Armor). When hydrogen sulfide poisoning was proven, I investigated the state’s anti-green algae plan. Son of a peasant, I know the problem of agricultural nitrogen leaks, a real scourge for the environment and public health.
Police open an investigation. The 17-year-old heroine, twin sister of the rider, finds herself embroiled in an environmental crime, the trafficking of eel fry orchestrated by her boyfriend’s fishmonger father.
Elver is a protected and endangered species. Many traffics have been dismantled in recent years, the last of which in June, estimated at 18.5 million euros. We are talking here about a “white gold” mafia. China, a major customer, buys eel fry and raises them on farms. In 2016, it raised and sold nearly 250,000 tonnes of adult eels. And this traffic does not escape France. The fry is caught on the west coast, in the English Channel and the Atlantic. At home, in the Basque Country, poaching is cultural.
How did you find out about this traffic?
I spent three months scouting and interviewing. I met poachers and General Jacques Diacono, head of theCentral Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Attacks (Oclaesp), headquartered in the Paris region. Sixty-four gendarmes and police officers are investigating trafficking in protected or regulated species or even environmental trafficking in waste and plant protection products… The service coordinates and leads judicial police investigations.
Have you been to the field?
At the beginning of 2020, I took part in an internship where investigators from Oclaesp and territorial gendarmes are trained in the environmental code and in field surveys in collaboration with inspectors from the French Biodiversity Office. I followed the latter at the foot of the Arzal dam where elver fishing is practiced in winter. At night, I was able to observe the round of civelliers, and the result of their fishing, rather poor considering the rarity of the glass eels. At the foot of the dam, there is no traffic: the fishermen resell the fry to fishmongers, fishing is supervised and supervised.
Since when does this training exist in France and how many people have been trained?
Training has been provided by Oclaesp since 2010. The national gendarmerie has trained 450 investigators throughout the metropolitan territory and in the overseas departments. From this year, officials of the national police can participate. In 2022, the training will be open to customs officers as well as to magistrates. Today, more and more cases concern public health and the environment. They are more and more complex, hence the interest of training the whole institution.
Why denounce these ecological crimes in a youth thriller rather than an adult?
Protecting the environment has become a priority for young people. I want to share my knowledge with those who will make the world of tomorrow. I also invite adults to read it, they will learn a lot about the hidden face of our societies.
Killer algae, by Thierry Colombié, published by Milan. From 14 years old. Price: € 15.90 in paper version and € 10.99 in digital.
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