Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

The French Eel Management Plan – will there be glass eels for restocking?

The French Eel Management Plan is an important element of the European Eel’s recovery programme as France controls 90% of the supply of baby eels that most other Eel Management Plans are reliant upon. The natural supply of baby eels has virtually ceased to the Northern and Eastern Countries of Europe.

The latest version of the French Eel Management Plan has now been prepared and circulated to the respective EU National Bodies for urgent consideration. It was released Friday 5th Feb, received and translated on Monday the 8th Feb, thus leaving many busy civil servants across Europe just one day – Tuesday 9th Feb – to consider the details, weigh up its implications and then make a decision. This seems totally inappropriate for Europe’s most important Eel Management Plan.

There is clearly no time in this ‘fast track’ process for consultation with interested, professional and objective parties.

We are now in the second year of the management plan and at least 35 % of the catch has to be reserved for the restocking program.

With regard to section VII of the French eel plan that relates to restocking there are some minimum specifications for holding facilities and transport. Some details with regard to management of quality of fish in relation to parasite, disease and sanitary precautions etc.

In accordance with the article 7 of the regulation 1100/2007 part of the glass eels captured will be reserved for repopulation. It has been determined  that there must be market priority for the supply of glass eels for restocking starting at 35% and culminating in a reservation of 60% in 2013.

It seems to us that the onus of responsibility lies on the Mareyeurs to meet this requirement. This system offers no security to those European countries that wish to purchase glass eels for their Eel management Plans. There is no transparency with regard to checks and balances as the season progresses to indicate what quantities of glass eels are available and which Mareyeur could be the possible source of supply.

The area of prime concern in the French Plan is the question of control of that part of the glass eel catch which must have market priority for restocking. From the text of the French plan it appears that these reservations will be subject to an historic audit by a specific national task group and that these reservations may also be exported once it is demonstrated that there are no restocking customers.

The reality is these weak administrative controls are clearly open to abuse and the price in China will determine the outcome and destination of the glass eels irrespective of well intentioned words about “priority”.

At the present time there is quota for 14.5 tonnes of exports of glass eels to China and the current price for baby eels in China of 850 Euros a Kilo C&F Shanghai. Two weeks ago the market price in Europe was just 450/500 Euros.  At the present time there are no glass eels are available for restocking.  There is no indication when glass eels will be available. There are no guarantees that the glass eel catch will be sufficient to meet the quota thus releasing glass eels for restocking.

If the French EMP is agreed by the Commission without tighter controls to ensure the implementation of a secure principle of “priority for restocking” it is highly likely that satisfying the 14.5 tons of quota for immediate profit, will leave no glass eels to meet Europe’s agreed restocking programmes

Peter Wood  MSc. B. Vet. Med. MRCVS