It looks as if eel fishing in the Baltic Sea and Sound will be closed from 1 November 2018 to 31 January 2019. Sweden announced its closure 23 May and according to the European Commission, the same period has been selected by the other Baltic Member States.
In December last year, during the negotiations on EU fishing possibilities for 2018, the Member States declared that they would close all fisheries for eel longer than 12 cm for a three-month period, rather than follow the Commission’s proposal for a complete ban of fishing for silver eels. The three-month period was to be between 1 September 2018 and 31 January 2019, but the exact dates were to be determined by each Member State.
Member states have to inform the Commission of the chosen period by 1 June 2018, and while it seems all Baltic Member States have already decided, others are expected to submit this information together with their national reports on implementation of the European eel regulation by 30 June.
The closures are intended to protect mature eels migrating to the Sargasso Sea to spawn, but they only cover marine fisheries in EU waters, with the exception of the Mediterranean and the Baltic seas, on eels longer than 12 cm.
As much as 57% of marine catches of mature eel are taken in the Baltic Sea, so a closure here could have an effect on the reproduction. However, the three-month period chosen by the Baltic States is after the peak eel fishing season in most countries. In Sweden, for example, eel fishing begins in May, and an earlier closure (1 September to 31 November) is estimated to reduce catches by 55 %, whereas the reduction during the chosen period is estimated to 22 % (or 35 tonnes).
The motivation for the choice provided in the Swedish public consultation documents was that an earlier closure would have disproportionate effects on the Swedish coastal fishery, compared to the benefits for European eel.