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.