Exotic seafood, snakes and hi-tech electronics equipment are emerging as the new cash crop for smugglers operating from Hong Kong's waters, anti-smuggling taskforce officers say. Booming demand for luxury goods on the mainland, where smugglers can make up to a 400 per cent profit, is encouraging the open-water smugglers, known as daai fei or 'big fast', to attempt to run the gauntlet of Hong Kong's highly trained marine strike force. They also are employing more cunning methods of concealment and diversionary tactics to elude surveillance and pursuit by taskforce officers. Revealing this trend, the chief of the joint police and customs anti-smuggling taskforce, Superintendent Rod Mason, said Hong Kong law enforcers were making it increasingly difficult for pirates to operate in the South China Sea. Mr Mason said the co-operation between police and customs - including the sharing of intelligence and joint deployment of officers and high-speed pursuit craft - was impacting heavily on the lucrative trade. He said 6,500 fast-moving craft were detected smuggling goods in 1990 compared with just 24 similar detections last year. But Mr Mason warned that smugglers - who operate at night and use boats mounted with up to four massive outboard engines and can hit speeds of up to 60 knots - continued to flout the law in an attempt to satisfy soaring demand on the mainland for luxury goods. 'Usually the smuggling bosses are recruiting cheap and dispensable people, who are paid $200 to $300 a run, for what is a very risky night-time operation,' he said. 'On most of our high-speed intercepts we are finding things like hi-tech computers, CD production systems, digital cameras and hard-disc drives which they are smuggling to avoid mainland duties. 'We are also coming across jet-fresh seafood like lobster, salmon, shellfish and mussels which have been legally imported into Hong Kong but are then delivered by the smugglers in an overnight run to someone on the mainland.' He said the luxury goods could earn smuggling bosses a profit of up to 400 per cent on each item. One of the more bizarre seizures recently involved a shipment of 200 highly poisonous cobras in boxes, which the smugglers started throwing at police during the chase. Mr Mason said Hong Kong's joint marine strike force was widely recognised as one of the best equipped and most highly trained anti-smuggling units in the world, rivalling similar outfits in the United States and Europe. Customs Assistant Superintendent Chan Tai-tak, of the anti-smuggling taskforce, said the latest trend of concealment was to wrap goods in waste paper or hide them in secret compartments. Nearly $75 million worth of electronic appliances, $60 million worth of VCDs and more than $2 million worth of vehicle parts account for the bulk of seized items this year, latest figures show.