NGOs call on French government to support proposals to aid recovery of European eel

Published on September 26, 2022

Earlier today, a group of NGOs sent a joint letter to the French minister asking France to support a strengthening of the existing transitional measures agreed as part of a multi-annual plan to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of European eel (Anguilla anguilla) in the Mediterranean.

The European eel is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN since 2008 and the latest scientific advice on fishing opportunities is zero catch for all life stages and in all habitats, as well as to minimise and eliminate where possible all other anthropogenic mortality factors. This Monday, 26 September, EU Fisheries Ministers exchanged views on the current situation of eel stocks and the future of those depending on it. In November, further measures to protect eels are expected to be agreed for the Mediterranean region.

Fifteen years after the adoption of the so-called eel regulation (EC 1100/2007), the eel population has not recovered. If anything, it has deteriorated even further. Despite its critical status, with glass eel recruitment as low as 0.6–5.4% of mean recruitment in the 1960–1979 reference period, it is still being targeted by both commercial and recreational fishing in most EU Member States.

For 2022, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised the EU that when the precautionary approach is applied to fishing opportunities, there should be zero catches for all life stages and in all habitats, including glass eels for restocking and aquaculture. In addition, all other anthropogenic eel mortalities should be minimized and eliminated where possible.

Given its critical status established by IUCN and advice of ICES, the continued targeting of European eel is really unacceptable. It is our view that the scientific advice and the CFP objectives – to which Member States must adhere – should be followed. All eel fisheries should be closed until a clear and documented recovery is evident. We also believe it is necessary to address other anthropogenic threats to European eel, such as loss and degradation of habitats, water pollution and migration barriers, says Claire Nouvian, President of BLOOM Association.

The Mediterranean region is under the governance of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and has been a progressive force in European eel management in recent years. The fact that the current temporary measures cover all habitats, including freshwater, is very important. Additional measures to aid eel recovery are being discussed in the GFCM now, with a decision expected at the high-level annual session taking place in Tirana on 7–11 November.

France remains one of the biggest eel fishing nations in the EU; it clearly dominates the glass eel market, with 89% of EU landings. As a country, we must show more commitment to protection and restoration measures, in particular, by supporting the proposals currently being drawn up in the GFCM, says Armelle Jung, Des Requins et Des Hommes.

Vittoria Gnetti of MedReAct says: We ask France and European Union to secure full protection of the eel, starting with the Mediterranean. The time to act is now.