Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Progress in reducing eel trafficking

Since the glass eel fishing season started in October 2018, several cases indicate that increased enforcement pressure is successfully reducing the illegal export of glass eels to Asia.


Following three interceptions at Airports in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, Germany, a closed Chinese restaurant near Frankfurt Airport was identified as a storage facility for glass eels. Since the restaurant was closed in 2015, it has potentially supplied smugglers for a longer period. Additional interceptions in Switzerland might also been supplied from that particular facility in Germany. SEG expects that further international investigations will shine light on the role of that restaurant.


So far this fishing season, more than 6 Million glass eels (2 tonnes) have been seized since October 2018, including: Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. The latest updates on glass eel trafficking and seizures can be accessed here:


On 07 February, nine men between the ages of 24 and 67 were found guilty of eel trafficking by the Nantes Criminal Court. Those convicted were sent to prison for up to two years and were fined with tens of thousands of euros.

Glass eel arrivals

As well as the developments in countering the trafficking there are indications that the glass eel recruitment is exceptional high this season, since late January catches have had to slow down to match the orders. This indicates that increased enforcement pressure is preventing illegal trade from within the officially reported legal catches. Furthermore, there are indications that the amount of glass eels arriving in Chinese farms is significantly lower than in previous years.

An integrated approach to the European eel’s recovery

SEG really appreciates the enhanced control of the glass eel fishery and trade sector, particularly in France, Spain and Portugal. Nevertheless, stopping trafficking alone will not save the eel. An integrated approach is needed which also includes the reinvention of the legal eel sector working towards a fully traceable supply of responsibly sourced fish, as well as the restoration of the natural world, such as wetland restoration, habitat improvements, river continuity and reduction of hydropower and pumping induced mortality.

Tags: Eel, Integrated approach, Trafficking