Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

DAFV statement: Fish in crisis – Aalarm! (February 21, 2022 on Spiegel-Online)

Statement by DAFV in response to the article, “Fish in crisis – Aalarm!” by Spiegel Online 21.02.22

“It is very unfortunate that Der Spiegel in its article: “Fish in crisis – Aalarm!” from February 21, 2022 on Spiegel-Online missed the opportunity to report more differentiated on the complex topic of eel. One-dimensional measures (here: the cessation of fishing) have never been particularly successful when it came to solving complex problems. The consideration of other expert opinions on the complex topic would certainly have done the article a lot of good.”

Read the full response in German here, translated in to English below:

DAFV Stellungnahme: Fisch in der Krise – Aalarm! (21. Februar 2022 auf Spiegel-Online)

Es ist sehr bedauerlich, dass der Spiegel in seinem Artikel: “Fisch in der Krise – Aalarm!” vom 21.02.2022 auf Spiegel-Online die Gelegenheit verpasst hat, differenzierter über das komplexe Thema Aal zu berichten. Eindimensionale Maßnahmen waren noch nie besonders erfolgreich, wenn es darum ging, komplexe Probleme zu lösen.

DAFV statement: Fish in crisis – Aalarm! (February 21, 2022 on Spiegel-Online)

It is very unfortunate that Der Spiegel in its article: “Fish in crisis – Aalarm!” from February 21, 2022 on Spiegel-Online missed the opportunity to report more differentiated on the complex topic of eel. One-dimensional measures (here: the cessation of fishing) have never been particularly successful when it came to solving complex problems. The consideration of other expert opinions on the complex topic would certainly have done the article a lot of good.

The Deutscher Angelfischerverband eV has already pointed this out several times and shown the potential risks and consequences of a complete ban on eel fishing.


Contradictions within the article make it difficult for the reader to keep track. At the beginning of the article, the author speaks of an impending disappearance of the eel stock in Europe, but later she admits that there is no scientific evidence for this thesis.

Not an endangered species

The European eel once made up about half of the fish biomass in European inland waters. At that time, the canals of the marshes of northern Germany were so rich in young eels that the farmers shoveled them onto the fields to fertilize them or even fed them to their chickens. Despite enormous declines in recent decades, scientific model calculations [1]that well over a billion glass eels continue to arrive on European coasts every year. These positive trends and developments are the result of the far-reaching protective measures implemented by the EU Eel Regulation. From our point of view, it is therefore absolutely misleading to speak of an extinction of this species – the European eel is far from that. However, we have to be aware that due to the drastic Europe-wide habitat loss as a result of hydropower use and other hydromorphological changes, the historical state of the eel stock can never be reached again.

illegal trade

A major problem is the export of live glass eels to Asia, which has been banned since 2010 and classified by Europol as the “biggest, most lucrative trade of protected species worldwide” [2].referred to as. A ban on fishing would certainly not solve the problem of illegal trade; on the contrary, it would even exacerbate it. The glass eel trade is far too lucrative to be stopped by a general ban on fishing. In addition, with the disappearance of legal fishing and the downstream, controlled value chain, the EU would lose all control. What criminal cares about a fishing ban when, armed with a net, he can earn several thousand euros on a dark night on the riverbank by catching the babies of a fish that, thanks to the fishing ban, no one knows anymore or has never seen?

ICES catch advice is misinterpreted and successes of the eel regulation are ignored

Fortunately, the article also addresses other potential man-made reasons for eel declines, but then concludes that capture and consumption in particular is detrimental to eel stocks. This fallacy is not surprising given that the wording of the last International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) catch recommendation has changed in exactly this direction. However, not because the data base indicates a deterioration in the stock situation, but for bureaucratic reasons because ICES had to adapt the wording to its protocols for catch recommendations. However, there was no public communication about the change in formulation and this often led to the misinterpretation that the status of the stock had continued to deteriorate.

The opposite is the case: after decades of slumping stocks, this was stopped in 2011 by the successful measures of the EU Eel Ordinance passed in 2007. European anglers and fishermen have made a decisive contribution to this. For example, mortality in glass eel fisheries for stocking and aquaculture has fallen from 42% [3] in 2007 to around 7% [4] now . In addition, the European commercial eel sector has joined forces to create the Eel Stewardship Fund (ESF), which is successfully funding recovery efforts.

Since the introduction of the EU eel regulation, eel fishing has already been massively restricted across Europe. In a few countries it has already been banned in order to achieve the regulation goals, in some countries it has been halved according to the EU evaluation report [5] , or in the case of Sweden it has even been reduced to 10%. A complete ban on fishing with the significant economic and socio-cultural consequences based on the unproven assumption that a ban on fishing would have a positive effect on the eel stock is not proportionate from the point of view of the DAFV.

The European Commission has no interest in destroying the continuation of the successful EU eel regulation by imposing a fishing ban. However, it is the fisheries ministers of the EU member states who have the final say. It is therefore important to convince them to deal intensively with the complex topic.


[1] Bornarel V, Lambert P, Briand C, Antunes C, Belpaire C, Ciccotti E, Diaz E, Diserud O, Doherty D, Domingos, I, D Evans, M de Graaf, C O’Leary, M Pedersen, R Poole, A Walker, H Wickstrom, L Beaulaton, & H Drouineau (2017). Modeling the recruitment of European eel ( Anguilla anguilla ) throughout its European range. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 75, 541-552.


[3] Briand, C., Sauvaget, B., Girard, P., Fatin, D., & Beaulaton, L. (2012). Push net fishing seems to be responsible for injuries and post fishing mortality in glass eel in the Vilaine estuary (France) in 2007. Knowledge and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems, 404, 02.

[4] Simon, J., Charrier, F., Dekker, W., & Belhamiti, N. (2021). The commercial push net fisheries for glass eels in France and its handling mortality. Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 00, 1-14.