The Japanese coast guard busted poachers' attempt to make off with nearly $20,000 of sea cucumbers.
Eleven men were nabbed after the coast guard at the port city of Rumoi, Hokkaido, was tipped off.
More than 1,500 pounds of sea cucumbers - an expensive delicacy in East Asia - were recovered.
Eleven people were arrested off the coast of Hokkaido in northern Japan on July 8 during a massive sea cucumber heist - a daring nighttime attempt to make off with 1,500 pounds of contraband, per Hokkaido news channel HTB News.
The Japanese coast guard team stationed in the port city of Rumoi, Hokkaido, received a tip-off about a team of people who were attempting to make off with enough sea cucumbers to fill 13 huge crates.
Sea cucumbers are a prized haul because of their prime status as a culinary delicacy in East Asia, particularly in China. Insider reported last year that sea cucumbers can cost over $3,000 a kilogram. Some spiky, fancier varieties are even packaged and gifted on special occasions.
The coast guard officers managed to round up 11 suspected poachers between the ages of 19 and 53, per Japan Today.
The Rumoi coast guard told Hokkaido online news site UHB News Japan that some of the men were completely kitted out with full diving gear and submersible machines. They were part of a full operation complete with divers to go down and get the creatures, with lookouts keeping watch, as well as getaway cars.
According to HTB News, the street value of the sea cucumber haul exceeded 2.2 million yen (or $19,966).
This is not the first time that poachers have set their sights on a massive sea cucumber heist. Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries said the poaching of abalones and sea cucumbers has become a "serious problem." Those caught poaching the creatures could be jailed for three years or fined up to $270,000.
Sea cucumbers were also the target of another smaller heist off Hokkaido in 2018. A crime syndicate was nabbed near Ishikari city for attempting to illegally poach 992 pounds of these marine delicacies, per Kyodo News. The invertebrates were recovered, but the Hokkaido police told Kyodo News at the time that despite arrests, what they saw of the poaching problem was "just the tip of the iceberg."
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