cover image: Addressing the critical state of European eel stocks


Addressing the critical state of European eel stocks

13 May 2024

The European eel population has suffered a dramatic decline since the 1980s. Several factors, both fisheries- and non-fisheries-related, are considered responsible for the high mortality rate among the fish species. The eel has a very complex life cycle covering several metamorphoses as well as long-distance migration, and many details of the species' life are still unknown. The shrinking eel population has gone hand in hand with decline in traditional eel fisheries. In 2007, the EU adopted Council Regulation (EC) No 1100/2007 (the 'Eel Regulation') to aid the recovery of the European eel stock. The regulation's main target is the escapement to the sea of at least 40 % of the adult silver eel population. EU Members States are obliged to have an eel management plan in place. Since 2010, all trade in eel with countries outside the EU has been banned, following the listing of the species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2009. In 2018, the Council adopted the first in a series of temporary eel fishing closures, banning eel fishing for several months. However, the European Commission concludes in a 2020 report that the status of the European eel remains critical and that the regulation's main target has not been reached. The report also questions the efficiency of some of the measures implemented at Member State level. Other reports raise similar concerns. In its resolution of 21 November 2023 on the implementation of the Eel Regulation, the European Parliament highlighted that more work needed to be done on the non-fisheries factors having an impact on eel mortality. It called on Member States to continue the practice of restocking as a necessary temporary measure. Parliament also suggested establishing an eel-specific expert group representing all relevant stakeholders.



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