Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

37.3% of the declared European glass eel catches “disappear”

New ICES WGEEL REPORT reveals that 37.3% of the declared European glass eel catches in 2015/2016 “disappear” with unknown destination

Conclusions to glass eel trade and traceability (pp. 50-51)

The 2015 and 2016 glass eel catches are a decrease from 2014 of 9.4 t (15.4%) and 1.7 t (2.8%) respectively. Only the UK and France recorded an increase in glass eel harvests between 2015 and 2016.

Of the total 2015 catch of 51.6 t, the fate of 32.2% of the catch remained unaccounted for.
Of the total 2016 catch of 59.3 t, the fate of 37.3% of the catch remained unaccounted for.

These levels of unaccounted glass eel are of a similar range to those noted in previous glass eel trade assessments in 2012 and 2013 with overall loss rates of 23% and 43% respectively, this despite the EC Eel Regulation requiring that the transfer of such glass eel should have been traceable for the preceding seven years. These findings have implications for the fulfilment of Article 7.2 of the Regulation.

In addition to the reported glass eel seizures associated with illegal trade to Asia (Stein et al., 2016), exports of glass eel (identified by commodity code and price analysis) from Europe to Hong Kong appear in EuroStat data. France exported 1600 kg of glass eels in 2015 and the UK 200 kg in 2016.

We were able to identify 11.7 t of stocking activity in 2016 representing only 20% of the total known harvest. Lack of supply and lack of funding were both equally cited in both 2015 and 2016 by
those completing the questionnaire as the principal cause of failure to meet their country’s stocking target. The requirements for traceability within the EU Eel Regulation 1100/2007, which were
to have been put in place by 2009, have still not been fully implemented across all EU
Member States.

Recommendations (p. 51)
  • All countries should put in place a system which fulfils the traceability requirements of the Eel Regulation, Article 12.
  • The type of trade analysis conducted here should be extended to cover both yellow and silver eel and that consideration should be given to contracting an external body to undertake the analysis. Implementation of the traceability requirement of the Regulation would also benefit stock assessment.
  • Further development of methods for identifying the origin of glass eel, as identified in WKSTOCKEEL, to aid in eel traceability.

DOWNLOAD full report