Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Chairman writes to CITES

Dear CITES Member

I am writing to you as the Chairman of the recently formed Sustainable Eel Group. We are a partnership with members drawn from significant leaders of the scientific, environmental, conservation and fishing communities. We are very keen to see the eels return to abundance and that our fishing industries and communities should be well regulated and prosper.

We are very concerned at the apparent break down of the EU’s approach to eel recovery and the subsequent CITES authorisation of exports to Asia.

At meetings of our group last week we learnt that French exports of Glass Eels to Asia had taken place even though many National Agriculture Ministries across Europe were explicitly saying that the French Eel Management Plan had not yet been approved and that they had not even seen copies of the latest draft.

These 14.5 tons of exports were only justified and to be allowed under the Eel Recovery Regulation once the French plan was approved and in particular once adequate provisions for restocking across Europe were made.

We also learnt that orders for restocking wetlands elsewhere in Europe have been placed and were now very unlikely to be filled as French Fisherman are to be allowed to make large short term profit through exports to China in priority over meeting the obligation to make 35% of the catch available for restocking.

I imagine the French Fishing Community may be saying that ‘Brussels’ was being too slow and were thus able to exert huge political pressure for fast action as the fishing season is at its midpoint – this we can understand but can’t condone if the consequence is a failure to meet the higher priority of restocking.

What assurance can you give the Sustainable Eel Group that the orders for restocking will be given priority over exports to Asia?

CITES urgently needs to work with the Commission to achieve this outcome which forms the basis of the recovery plan.

Is there anything we can do to support the effective implementation of this important Recovery Programme?

It is highly likely that the 14.5 tons will absorb all the remaining catch in France and short term profit will triumph over sustainability – An answer would be to suspend the exports after two weeks at the end of the next tide (21st Feb) and so allow the restocking to take place in the final tide and a half of the French middle and south season.