Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

SEG welcomes TRAFFIC’s efforts against illegal eel trade in the Philippines!

Enforcement agenceis met last week to discuss how to improve enforcement of the eel trade in the Philippines © TRAFFIC

Nueva Vizcaya, the Philippines, May 2017–80 representatives from local Customs and enforcement agencies attended a workshop on “Effective law enforcement implementation to avert illegal trade of glass eels and other wildlife species”, aimed at improving co-ordination amongst government regulatory and enforcement bodies addressing these issues.

Between 2011 and 2012 the Philippines experienced a dramatic increase in the price, and consequently the exploitation, of Anguilla glass eels, leading the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to pass a precautionary measure prohibiting the export of juvenile eels not exceeding 15 cm in length. However, a joint report from TRAFFIC and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in 2014 found that a significant volume of eels below this legal length were still being exported to meet consistently high demand from East Asia.

Various initiatives and actions have arisen in response, including workshops on sustainable trade in eels and the development of the Eel Management Plan 2017–2021 for the Cagayan River Basin, but specific concerns remain regarding the collaborative effectiveness of local enforcement agencies in stemming the volume of illegal exports.

During last week’s workshop, TRAFFIC gave a brief analysis of recent Anguilla eel trade in the Philippines, where illegal and unreported exports are a cause for concern, and emphasized the importance of collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

In the region, Customs data for 2014—2016 from Japan, mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, reveal a shift towards trade in larger juvenile eels.

“Although an alarming number of glass eels are still illegally exported from the Philippines, the trade data suggest that more eels are being farmed locally and exported only once they reach the legal size,” said Hiromi Shiraishi, Programme officer for TRAFFIC’s Japan Office.

The workshop was the first of its kind in the Philippines, establishing an important forum for discussion, collaboration and information-sharing between agencies working to curb the illegal eel trade.

Joyce Wu, Senior Programme Officer for TRAFFIC said, “We are extremely encouraged to see the relevant authorities come together, full of enthusiasm to discuss this issue and to further co-operation to address the illegal eel trade.”

Dr Evelyn Ame, Research Manager at BFAR Region 2 said, “Strict law enforcement is a prerequisite for combating illegal trade and managing eel resources. Now that the frontline officials have formulated solutions and plans to address the problems, we will work to put them into action. We appreciate TRAFFIC and ZSL’s ongoing support for this issue.”

Financial support for the workshop was provided by BFAR, the Darwin Initiative “Eels—a flagship species for freshwater conservation in the Philippines” and WWF Japan and jointly organized by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and TRAFFIC.

For more information, please contact:
Hiromi Shiraishi, Programme Officer, TRAFFIC – Japan Office