Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Bending the Curve

“Bending the Curve”

SEG 10th Annual General Meeting held in Potsdam 10th March 2020
Chairman’s Report

It is now 17 months since SEG held its last, the 9th AGM, that took place in the Brussels office of our partner organisation Wetlands International European Association. The AGM report for that meeting makes very interesting reading as part of gauging SEG’s progress towards delivering its “accelerating eel recovery” mission.
The challenges of regenerating the eel stock are very great and for this report, the structure will be based around the three sustainability themes of Brundtland, that are also the corner stone for reporting progress against the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for Sustainability Standards. They were also part of the founding beliefs underpinning SEG’s foundation back in 2010. This time the headings will be: People – Profit – Planet taken from its creator John Elkington, who is a key SEG supporter and champion. (His latest book Green Swans is published in April 2020 and SEG features prominently in the Green Swans Video
So much of SEG’s work is about communicating the eel’s incredible story and since the last Brussels meeting, SEG celebrated its 10th birthday with our greatest conference to date at the Natural History Museum in London on 26 and 27 June 2019. This included supporting events at the WWT Wetlands Centre in Barnes, the Dutch Church and the visit of the Dutch Eel Barge; re-enacting and confirming the significance of the enduring relationship between these countries.

The conference photo above  illustrates delegates from some 20 countries representing a wide range of stakeholders:  Science, Conservation, Commercial, Enforcement, Policy, Media, Artists, Fisheries Minister and the Media.  SEG made its first recognition awards at the five year point and so to mark the 10 years, the UK Fisheries Minister, Robert Goodwill, made awards to John Kilburn for his work at Plymouth University with the degree illustration students, to Florian Stein from SEG for his work with Counter Trafficking, to Harriet Alvis from Bristol Avon Rivers Trust for her work with Eels in the Classroom, to Guillaume Le Priellec for his work in France: leading the fishermen in Brittany in the adoption of the SEG standard.

The Eel Regulation and SEG Theory of Change
During 2018 – 2019 The Eel Regulation went through a major consultation and evaluation process. Many of you contributed. The Regulation, whilst not perfect, has been a fundamental platform for SEG to operate and seek to build action for the European eel. We are delighted that it is not being cast aside and will play a full role in seeking to refine and make it more effective.
The combination of SEG thinking and strategy are portrayed through the SEG Theory of Change. This leans heavily on the thinking within the Regulation and seeks to illustrate a multinational, integrated approach. Full recovery of the eel population will take many decades.  The glass eel recruitment proxy indicator was both the lead indicator calling for the Eel Regulation and is now the lead indicator starting to reveal the bend in the curve upwards towards recovery.

SEG has been developing performance metrics to tell the story of progress towards sustainability. A few are selected here to illustrate the height, width and depth of SEG’s work. A more comprehensive picture of these metrics will be prepared and published shortly as part of demonstrating the sustainability impacts of the SEG standard and our other strategies for eel recovery.
The proxy measure for eel populations is the glass eel recruitment index reported annually by ICES. These have been showing an improving situation since 2011, coinciding closely with the introduction of the Eel Regulation. SEG believes there is a direct link and the Regulation is the foundation for this positive development.

Counter Eel Trafficking
SEG’s work in this field has been instrumental in bringing about change to this tragic situation. Initially through awareness raising, demonstrating the scale of the crime and latterly through encouraging Wildlife Crime enforcement agencies – nationally, EU wide and globally. The success of this work can be illustrated in many ways from the increases in customs finds to the number of people arrested. This slide is taken from our Florian Stein’s report at the Institute of Fisheries Management conference in 2019. This situation is far from won, however there are positive signs that trafficking volumes are falling from the annual 300-350 million level of pre 2019.

The SEG standard V6 and its uptake in 2019
The latest version was developed in accordance with the ISEAL Codes for sustainability standards and published in June 2018. The major consultation exercise in 2017-18 resulted in major changes to the standard and dozens of assessments have now taken place using it. There are now 146 SEG certified glass eel fishermen in France and nearly all the UK’s part time elver fishermen. The total catch of SEG certified fish increased from 7,130 tonnes in 2017/18 season to 12,781 tonnes in the 2018/19 season, representing 35% of legal market demand. There are now 11 farms positively assessed and 16 retailers and smokers. The standard is growing in significance especially in the commercial trade to the Netherlands and Germany but also in the restocking one too.
Traceability remains a key issue and this is an area for considerable development. It is also the area in the Eel Regulation that is most likely to be improved.

The availability and price are huge drivers in the restocking market. SEG is the only body with a Europe wide reach trying to assess the volume actually achieved in relation to the target levels set in national Eel Management Plans. The calculations for 2020 will be of great interest and a better result is expected given the success of the counter trafficking work in France, Spain, Portugal and across the world.

Governance and Finance
At the previous Annual General Meeting (AGM) SEG’s transition to its Belgium ASBL structure was confirmed and since then has operated effectively with regular leadership team and board meetings – some in traditional face to face form and increasingly by teleconference. The retirement of SEG’s accountant has led to the appointment of Axbridge Accountancy as our service provider. The last set of accounts prepared by Shiner Mitchell Fisher are posted. These show a small surplus of £1884 on a turnover of £222,281.
Within the ASBL structure membership takes two forms: Voting and Adhering. These are defined in the articles and a new membership policy will be developed during 2020.


SEG’s Board policy is to continue the process of using the three ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for Sustainability Standards. We believe in the value of this approach and especially the opportunity to develop and improve the SEG standard within the ISEAL ‘Learning Community.’

The Eel’s Future
SEG will continue to be the Leadership Alliance for Eel and expects to report further positive progress on the long road to recovery using the People Profit Planet themes. In particular, SEG thanks the many thousands of people throughout Europe and globally for their continued support and in particular for their daily work and actions that make recovery possible and help “to bend the curve”. The European eel, as Dr Willem Dekker has said, is nowhere near extinction.  However full recovery is also a long way off.
We have so much more protection work to do in the years ahead
As Joe Crowley from BBC Countryfile said “Corralled and lobbied by the superb Sustainable Eel Group. Long may that cooperation continue.