Quantifying the illegal trade in European glass eels (Anguilla anguilla): Evidences and Indicators
Preamble. The brief report summarizes recent findings and available information in relation to the trafficking of European eels. This is a complex subject and note that the presented results include uncertainties and simplifications.
Nevertheless, the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) intends to continue to draw attention to the urgent matter by presenting the best available data that indicate the current dimension and scale of this specific European Illegal Wildlife Trade issue. Furthermore, SEG raises the concern that the illegal trade in European eels from Europe to Asia keeps and amplifies the pressure on a stock that urgently needs greater protection.
Trafficking in eels is considered to be a serious threat to the future of the species and the livelihood of up to 10 000 people across Europe.
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Conclusions. The listing of the European eel in CITES Appendix II and its subsequent implementation by the EU has been made to protect the eel. The EU established the Eel Regulation to ensure protection and enable sustainable use. In Article 12: ‘Control and enforcement concerning imports and exports of eel’, the EU is very explicit about the obligations concerning traceability:
“No later than 1 July 2009, Member States shall: – take the measures necessary to identify the origin and ensure the traceability of all live eels imported or exported from their territory (…)”.
For the past two fishing seasons, SEG estimates that about 50 % of the annually declared glass eel catches in the EU are not traceable due to the absence of an effective traceability system. Due to cross-border trade activities, a European-wide and harmonised electronic system seems to be to most adequate to meet full traceability. Such an approach is now vital to the attainment of the goal ‘the protection and sustainable use’ as well as the preservation of small community livelihoods across Europe. Also, it should be noted that genetic studies have shown that European eels which likely originated from illegal export from Europe are returning to the EU as processed products without CITES permit and therefore in violation of international law and so further undermine Europe eel community and industry.
In order to implement full traceability in eels and therefore effectively counter eel trafficking, SEG advices is to:
implement a European-wide electronic system that ensures full traceability of all eel trade
genetically test all Anguilla imports into the European Union
increase enforcement to ensure that eel fishery and trade is sufficiently controlled