Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Experts call for EU action to tackle the illegal eel market

Experts call for EU action to tackle the illegal eel market

‘Save the European Eel’ event at European Parliament examined eel smuggling

copyright Louie Morris Instagram: @louie.ii


Brussels, June 20, 2018. Action is needed to tackle the smuggling that is threatening the survival of eels, Europe’s most common freshwater fish, experts said at a special event at the European Parliament in Brussels on June 20.
The Save the European Eel event gathered MEPs, EU officials, eel scientists and representatives from Europol and the Spanish enforcement authorities to look at the illegal eel trade and the impact of trafficking on European stocks.
The event was moderated by Andrew Kerr, Chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG), the alliance of European-wide conservation, industry and science representatives working to help eel stocks recover. “The illegal eel trade is like a modern-day ivory market: secretive, big-money smuggling that threatens the very survival of the species,” he said. “The situation now is a big, tragic mess.”
The event co-host, German MEP Ulrike Rodust, said that the decline of the eel raised a number of questions. “The EU has a responsibility to shine a light onto this issue,” she said.
The other event co-host, Portuguese MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos, said that more needed to be done to address the problem of eel trafficking. “This species really needs a lot of protection,” he said, pointing the finger at the crime syndicates who smuggle eels to the lucrative Chinese market. “The EU should give a red card to China,” he said.

copyright Louie Morris Instagram: @louie.ii

Dagmar Ziková, the European Commission’s Policy Officer for Scientific Advice on CITES and the EU CITES Regulation at the Directorate General for the Environment, explained the EU legislation on wildlife conservationand the subsequent ban on trade in eel from/to the EU (2010). “We definitely need to work better with third countries,” she said. “We need to improve data as the life-cycle of eels is so complex.”
Willem Dekker, a scientist from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who has studied eels since 1985, spoke about the impact of trafficking on the eel stock, and how that affects the governance of the eel protection plans throughout Europe. He shared data that showed how the stock started falling in 1960s and continued until the early 2000s. “That was 40 years of inaction,” he said. “Protection is falling short while ‘eel fatigue’ sets in. If you don’t force countries to take action, they won’t do anything.”
José Antonio Alfaro Moreno, a seconded National Expert at Europol, explained the police efforts to combat smuggling. Europol’s Operation Lake, with Interpol, Eurojust and seven key governments has resulted in hundreds or arrests, and millions of euros of goods seized. “Our task in Europol is to make people work together,” he said. “We are enthusiastic and optimistic.”
And Lieutenant Luis García, from the Spanish Guardia Civil, talked about the latest national counter-trafficking operations. He said that glass eels (juveniles) sell for €1500/kg and when grown in Asian farms, produce a net benefit of  €7500. “We need a protocol to reintroduce the glass eels caught in various operations into the wild,” he said. “This is not a Spanish problem, this is not even a European problem. This is a world problem.”
Eel stocks have been in decline for over a century, and they are now only about 10% of their previous level. Many factors have contributed to the decline: loss of wetland habitat, pollution, water-management blocking migration pathways, unscreened water pumps and hydropower stations, over-exploitation and illegal trafficking. For every eel legally eaten in Europe, up to five more are being trafficked illegally.

copyright Louie Morris Instagram: @louie.ii


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For more information, contact:
Andrew Kerr, Chairman of SEG
andrewkerrseg@gmail.com


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