Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Leadership Team

Andrew Kerr, Chairman
Andrew has built up his conservation experience within the Wildlife Trust movement here in the UK where he has been Chairman of both Gloucestershire (GWT) and then also of the South West Wildlife Trust. His great interests have been butterflies and migratory fish. These governance and leadership roles greatly stimulated his understanding and then commitment to sustainability which he now believes is fundamental.
His passion for the eel developed by living near the River Severn where he heard in his youth the stories of super abundance and then in later life of their decline and now the listing as critically endangered. As Chairman of GWT he was asked why conservationists were doing nothing about this crisis and so following treatment for prostate cancer took up the challenge.
His back ground includes 25 years as a management consultant specialising in organisational development, leadership and change. He learnt about industry and manufacturing in Clarks Shoes and before that following his training at Sandhurst saw military service as a Captain in the 17/21 Lancers.
Andrew is the author of the book ‘I can never say enough about the men’ the remarkable history of the private army of the Maharajah of Kashmir in WW1. He regularly travels to India and gives talks on both this subject and eels.

Dr. Willem Dekker, Director of Science
Member representing Science.
Willem has been involved in eel research since 1984. Starting from a local perspective on the fisheries in Lake IJsselmeer (the Netherlands), he developed a pan-European view on the long-term population dynamics of the European eel stock, culminating in his 2004 PhD thesis: “Slipping through our hands; population dynamics of the European eel”. He chaired the Eel Working Group, a joint group of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Committee, from 1996 to 2006. He had a leading role in the design and development of the European Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel. He is currently employed at the Freshwater Institute of the Swedish Agricultural University in Stockholm. His research interests focus on the assessment and management of the eel fisheries throughout Europe, including historical and cultural aspects, assessment procedures and stock dynamics.

Alex Koelewijn, Director of Commercial Eel Sector
Member representing Commercial Sector.
Alex is a descendant of an old Dutch fishermen’s family. Since the mid 1500 they have fished, processed and traded. Although Alex grew up with eel he started a custom clearance agency with his brother in 1991. In 1992 his eel blood started to itch and he opened a brandnew eel trading company and smokery using the ancient family recipies. Compassion for the fish and traditional dishes were and are his passion.
As the eel crisis developed Alex learned about the EU Eel Regulation 1100/2007 and its implementation through the Dutch Eel Management Plan. In 2009 he was one of the founding fathers of the Dutch Eel traders association NeVePaling. In 2010 he spent some months investigating and reviewing the eel crisis and during this period he realised that nature has its limits. He concluded the eel industry had to reinvent itself. In 2010 he was one of the founding fathers of the Dutch DUPAN Foundation and under his leadership the Dutch eel fund was invented. Alex is a true believer that the eel industry has the abillity to make the move to a fully traceable eel product from fishermen to plate and to reduce all waste to a minimum. A traceable chain of custody is one of the key elements of the Sustainable Eel Standard. Since early 2010, Alex is connected with the Sustainable Eel Group where he has been elected as leader of the Working Group Commercial.
In 2015 Alex was co-founder of the Eel Stewardship Association, the owner of the collective trade mark Eel Stewardship Fund. The ESF logo is to be found on eel products. The ESF enables the funding of conservation and scientific programmes like the restocking of eels in large numbers, trapping of migrating silver eels in front of hydropower and pumping stations and immediate transfer to open sea and therefore enable a safe pass towards the spawning grounds. Furthermore, the ESF funds scientific research for this incredible and little understood wonder of nature.

Alexander Wever, Commercial Specialist
Member representing Commercial Sector.
Alexander made his business degree in economics at the Berlin University in 1995 and started in the seafood world beeing a company trainee at UNILEVER in the subsidiary NORDSEE, Europe biggest Fast Food chain for seafood where he worked as Marketing Manager and District Sales Manager. After four years he was hired by Globus Hyper markets where he was responsible for the seafood business for seven years as Category Manager and Seafood buyer. Later he went to Metro Cash & Carry where her was Director seafood for the German Business. In 2008 AWF Consulting was founded as a specialized Seafood Industry Consulting company by Alexander after 12 successful years in the German seafood industry. AWF is based in Hamm/Germany not far away fromDusseldorf and Dortmund. Alexander also works for the German Eel Initiative IFEA.

Mike Baltzer, Executive Director: SHOAL.
Member representing Conservation.
 Mike is a conservation biologist with over 30 years of experience primarily in Asia, Africa and Europe. He began his career undertaking and leading biological inventory expeditions in Uganda, Vietnam and Indonesia. He since specialised in leading very large, complex, multi-country focused conservation programmes for various organisations. For more than 18 years, he worked for WWF as the Conservation Director for their Greater Mekong Programme, Director (CEO) of the Danube-Carpathian Programme and the global Lead for their tiger programme for the last nine years with WWF. In 2018, Mike conceived, launched and became the Executive Director of a new global initiative and partnership called SHOAL, committed to ending the extinction of freshwater species.

David Bunt, Director of Conservation Operations
Member representing Conservation.
David Bunt has been involved in fisheries science and management since graduating in 1985.  After a MSc. In Aquatic Resource Management David spent 30 years in fisheries and environmental management and regulation with the UK’s National Rivers Authority and Environment Agency, where he implemented many measures to improve cyprinid and salmonid fisheries.
He has been a member of the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) since 1985, filling a number of positions to progress its objectives of supporting sustainable fisheries management. He has achieved the status of Fellow of the Institute, and currently holds the position of  Chairman. Through the IFM he has achieved the qualification of Chartered Environmentalist.
David was a founder member of SEG in 2010 and has been primarily responsible for developing and managing the SEG Standard.  In 2016 David left employment to become a freelance environmental consultant.  He is contracted to SEG as Director of  Conservation Operations with principal roles to be responsible for the Standard, gain funding and co-ordinate the delivery of eel conservation projects, and to deliver eel mitigation projects for companies who are liable to complete ‘Alternative Measures by Other Means’.

Toby Mills, Conservation Officer
Toby is a researcher who joined us on our team in 2021. He became involved in eel conservation during his undergraduate degree in Fine Art at The Glasgow School of Art, leading him to run an ‘Eels in the Classroom’ programme as part of his degree show in June 2019. Amongst other roles Toby coordinates the ‘Eels in the Classroom’ projects and works on collecting and analyzing the glass eel market survey.