ICES has published its advice on European eel for 2021. It is essentially the same as it has been since 2003: keep all anthropogenic impacts as close to zero as possible. Despite this advice, most EU countries still allow eel fishing to take place.
ICES advice for European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is based on the precautionary approach and time series for glass eel and yellow eel recruitment, as data on eel fisheries and other anthropogenic impacts remain incomplete.
Assessment is complex due to the great geographical range of the European eel population, including a number of countries outside of the ICES areas and EU data collection and provision requirements. This makes it impossible for ICES to use fishing mortality, Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and other normal reference points for eel.
However, eel has recently been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as remaining Critically Endangered. Also, ICES data on recruitment shows a dramatic decline since the assessment baseline (1960-1979), and no significant recovery. Glass eel recruitment remains at a very low level. Even without defined biological reference points, it is ICES assessment that the European eel population is well below any potential reference points, such as MSYBtrigger and Bpa/Blim. It is “in the red”.
Despite this, most EU Member States still allow both commercial and recreational fishing on eel to carry on, aside from a 3-month fishing ban set on a national level for three consecutive months between 1 August and 28 February. This restriction will be discussed again at the EU Fisheries Council on 15–16 December. It is FishSec’s view that it is time to stop fishing.
For the ICES Advice on European eel for 2021: