The Waterloo Foundation has awarded the Fisheries Secretariat two years of funding for advocacy work in order to strengthen the management and conservation of European eel, and ultimately aid its recovery.
The European eel population (Anguilla anguilla) has declined dramatically since the 1970s. In less than 50 years, it has gone from one of our largest, most widespread fishery resources to a critically endangered species.
With millions of glass eels still arriving at the European coast line, it is perhaps hard to imagine that it is threatened, but its distribution has shrunk and the population is down to somewhere around 1–10 % of earlier levels.
Changes in marine environments, damage to habitats, pollution, parasites, overfishing and a substantial illegal trade, as well as hydro-electric power turbines have all had a negative impact. European eel is also the focus of large-scale illegal trade, with glass eel trafficking now recognised as Europe’s greatest wildlife crime, targeted by Europol’s Operation Fame.
The need for action to save European eel has been recognised internationally for a number of years. It remains on the IUCN red list as Critically Endangered, and a CITES listing on Appendix II aims to closely control trade. It was also included on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in 2014.
A joint EU management framework, based on the eel recovery plan from 2007 and mandatory national eel management plans, has been in place for over 10 years, and is accompanied by an EU ban on trade with countries outside the EU Member States. However, the current EU management framework is not working particularly well and further actions to secure eel recovery are urgently needed.
The funding is strategically timed, with the ongoing European Commission evaluation of the Eel Regulation, launched on 13 April 2018, as well as the work of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean Sea (GFCM) on a management framework for European eel (Recommendation GFCM/42/2018/1).
The Fisheries Secretariat will cover developments on our website and other communication channels. We will work together with the Good Fish Foundation and other NGOs for the protection and recovery of European eel throughout its geographical range, and in particular improved management and implementation in the EU.