Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

JWCS highlights trafficking in Japanese eels within East Asia

Source: Japan Wildlife Conservation Society (JWCS)

There is strong demand for eel in Japan, and the cooked item known as “kabayaki” is sold even in supermarkets and fast-food stores. A DNA survey conducted by Greenpeace in 2014 revealed that the eel sold at major supermarkets included European eel, Anguilla anguilla (Appendix Ⅱ, IUCN Redlist CR), American eel A. rostrata (IUCN EN), as well as Japanese eel, A. japonica (IUCN EN). The species found in “kabayaki” imported from China sometimes differed from that in the sales contracts, revealing that the system for traceability is inadequate.
Kyodo News revealed that between November 2016 and April 2017, 19.5 tons of glass eels were released into domestic A. japonica aquaculture ponds. Of those, 8.4t were registered as caught in Japan and 4.1t were imported from Hong Kong, while the remaining 7t were likely poached or came from other illegal sources. (Kyodo, June 4, 2017)
Further, since there is hardly any glass eel fishing in Hong Kong, it has been suggested that glass eels are smuggled from Taiwan, where their export is prohibited, and that such trading provides income for Japan’s crime syndicates. (Wedge, 2015 and August 2017)
Despite the fact that the consumption of eel in Japan is linked to poaching, smuggling and crime syndicates, the government is reluctant to introduce regulations, which raises fears that over fishing may lead to the extinction of the species.
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