Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

SEG calls for the establishment of an International body for Eel Management

On 9-10 October, EU Fisheries Ministers are provisionally scheduled to consider adoption of a European Commission proposal (1) which would ban eel fishing in the Baltic as an emergency measure, because the EU Eel Regulation (2), established in 2007, is considered to be failing: the agreed goals have not been realized and the required protection has not been achieved. The Sustainable Eel Group (SEG), however, is convinced that such a measure in isolation is not effective and, in contrast, calls for a holistic approach to ensure better eel management.
SEG, a Europe-wide NGO whose mission is to accelerate the recovery of the eel, is now calling for a decisive response to this impasse. Banning a particular fishing area is not a long- term solution for international effective eel management. Many factors have and continue to contribute to this decline: loss of wetland habitat, pollution, water-management blocking migration pathways, unscreened water pumps, hydropower stations, and over-exploitation. This is a complex problem that cannot be solved by regional emergency measures focusing only on fisheries. SEG is convinced that a full scale re-evaluation of the Eel Regulation is now required.
Eel stocks throughout Europe have declined drastically in the past 60 years. Culturally, ecologically and economically, the European eel is a very important species and therefore needs to be well protected. The eel is enjoyed in many communities across Europe and North Africa. The eel processing and retail adds value and the total employment amounts to many thousands of jobs. SEG estimates the total worth to be 750m Euros annually.
In 2003, in the build-up to the Eel Regulation 2007, the Commission published a Communication (3) which included discussion on the partitioning of responsibilities for managing the eel between the EU and its Member States. Amongst others, the Commission considered “the possibility of developing a management body” for coordination and orchestration of national and international protective actions. Until now no such management organization has been established. Partly as a result, national protective actions remain uncoordinated and have become ineffective.
SEG believes that a step change is needed to ensure adequate protection and sustainable use of the eel in the form of the creation of an international agency, as considered in 2003 to coordinate and promote efficient and effective protection, thus enabling sustainable exploitation with a view to ultimately achieving responsible management for a recovery of the European eel stock.
Andrew Kerr (Chairman)

1 Commission Proposal COM (2017) 461 final, fixing for 2018 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks applicable in the Baltic Sea
2 Council Regulation (EC) No 1100/2007, establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of the European eel
3 COM(2003) 573 final, Development of a Community Action Plan for the management of European Eel