Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Counter trafficking success is reflected by crash in European glass eel supply into Chinese eel aquaculture

Success of counter glass eel trafficking in Europe is reflected by crash in European glass eel supply into Chinese eel aquaculture

September 2020. Since the implementation of the EU ban on eel trade across the EU’s outer boarder in 2010, illegal exportation of juvenile glass eels became an increasing concern for the species’ stock recovery. Fortunately, we can now see first indications that the illegal trade collapses due to the European enforcement efforts during past years.

European glass eel input into Chinese eel farms, seizures and arrests. Sources: Arrests and seizures in metric tonnes (Europol press releases 2017-2020); China = Glass eel Input into Chinese eel aquaculture in metric tonnes (Nihon Yoshoku Shimbun 2020)

  • The peak of glass eel input into Chinese eel aquaculture in 2017/2018 aligns well with the peak in seizures and the 100 t estimate reported by Europol [1].
  • International enforcement efforts between 2016-17 and 2018-19 are reflected in high numbers of seized glass eels and numbers of arrests [2].
  • Following the enforcement efforts, reported European glass eels input into Chinese aquaculture crashed by 85 % (from 35 t to 5 t).
  • The discrepancy between Europol estimate (100 t) and the reports in the Japanese Eel Newspaper (35 t) for the 2017/2018 season may have several causes:
    – Transport mortality en route from Europe to Asia,
    – Lacking visibility of the entire (illegal) glass eel input by Japanese Newspaper,
    – Uncertainties included in the Europol estimate
[1] Reported by Europol
[2] Reported in Europol press releases

Further Chinese sources that confirm the decreasing European eel supply

The first web source confirms the reduction to 5 t:
In the 2019 year of eel (September 2018-August 2019), the total number of farmed eels globally continued to decline severely, approaching the lowest in 2012 and 2013; the East Asia region suffered a historically bad harvest of eels, and the high price of Japanese eel make it difficult to import European glass eels. Additionally, prices of American elvers have risen, reaching the highest price since start of the cultivation. In 2019, my country released only 3 tons of Japanese eel fry, 8 tons of North American eel fry, 17 tons of South American eel fry, 5 tons of European eel fry, and 1 ton of eel fry
(google translated from:–33002.htmledited, dated: 2020-03-23)

The second web source describes the struggles resulting from decreasing supply:

The source furthermore mentions a demand of 200 Million glass (equates to estimated 67 t European glass eels) for the provinces Fujian and Jiangxi, which produce more than 40 % of the annual Chinese eel aquaculture production.

(Google translated from:, dated: 07-07-2020)

Data compiled by Florian Stein, Director of Scientific Operations, Sustainable Eel Group (SEG)
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