Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel





compiled by Stein F, unpublished, 2023

To help protect the European eel, one of our key strategies, as described on our Theory of Change, is to play our part to combat illegal fishing and trade.  We do this to (1) minimise the harm to and loss of this vulnerable species and (2) maximise the value to those legitimate fishers and traders who operate responsibly. To support this aim we will:

  • share information with enforcement agencies

  • share information to influence governments to apply the resources to combat illegal fishing and trade

  • publish news on arrests and prosecutions on our website and

  • discourage illegal activity via application of the SEG standard

International trade of the European eel towards East Asia has significantly increased in the past decades and has raised concern within the international community, that listed the species in Annex II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Since the listing came into force in 2009, exports of this species need to be accompanied by a permit. However, in 2010, the EU has banned all imports and exports of European eel to and from the EU.
Nonetheless, under-reporting, poaching and illegal trade of the European eel have occurred, endangering the species and making the assessment of the impact of fishery, and its management, difficult. In June 2017, SEG identified that about 30 tonnes of eels, half of the declared European catches in seasons 2015/2016 and 2016/2017, equivalent to 100 million and twice the level of eels consumed domestically in Europe through aquaculture, could not be traced and were likely traded to East Asia.
Including Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), Europol estimated that 100 t (350 million fish) of European eel are annually trafficked to supply Chinese eel farms.

Estimates of the legal and illegal exploitation of European glass eel

The full pie represents the annual amount of young eel coming from the ocean into Europe (440t); each segment represents a different destination. Restocking outdoor waters in Europe; Aquaculture within Europe; illegally exported legal catch; illegally exported, illegal or undocumented catch (IUU); The “Free immigrants” represent the proportion that is not caught.
Sources: Bornarel et al 2017 (2015 recruitment estimate: 440 t); SEG-Report-2018-1-V1 (aquaculture, restocking, illegally exported from legal catch); EUROPOL press release (illegal export estimate: 100 t)

CLICK image to download SEG-Report-2018-1-V1