2020.12.10

EU ministers treat the eel issue – will fishing continue next year?

Next week’s meeting in the EU Agricultural and Fisheries Council offers an opportunity for the ministers to place restrictions on the fishing for European eel. Despite the repeated advice from scientists to ban eel fishing altogether, Baltic Sea Centre policy analyst Charles Berkow doubt that the Council will take such a decision.

Text: Lisa Bergqvist

The advice from the scientists the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, ICES, for next year is clear: All anthropogenic impacts on the European eel stock, including recreational and commercial fishing, should be reduced to as close as possible to zero. On the whole, the same advice has been given since 1999, but still fishing for eel is allowed in many of the European countries.

– Ministers and managers seem to still be paying more attention to the short-term economic interests of a small group of fisher than to the environment we all depend on, says Charles Berkow, who has followed fisheries politics for many years and currently works as a Policy Officer at the Baltic Sea Centre. 

The last decades, there has been a steep decline in the number of glass eels reaching Europe and the scientists now fear that the population might be close to extinction. The Baltic Sea Centre has repeatedly adviced, most recently in a policy brief that the fishing, specially for the valuable silver eel, should be banned completely, in order to save the species.

Even the EU Commission has suggested a general ban on eel fishing, but no such decision has yet been taken by the Council. In 2017, however, the countries agreed to make a three months closure for the eel fisheries. A decision that later has been repeated for 2019 and 2020, and is proposed to be rolled over again for 2021.

 – If the intention is to protect the eel, the ban should be timed to have the maximum benefit for silver eels on their way to spawning areas. But there is a risk that at least some Member States may have instead timed the ban to protect the fisheries, Charles Berkow explains.

For the upcoming AgriFish Council 15-16 December, the assumption is that the same decision will be made for 2021.

 – Considering what we have seen of the preparations, it is unlikely that the Council will take a decision in line with the scientific advice and ban all fishing. They should at least clarify that the closure should be timed to protect the eel instead of short-term economic interests.

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ICES ADVICE ON EUROPEAN EEL

1999

ICES recommends that a recovery plan should be implemented for the eel stock and that the fishing mortality be reduced to the lowest possible level until such a plan is agreed upon and implemented.

2000

Advice on management: ICES recommends that a recovery plan should be implemented for the eel stock and that the fishing mortality be reduced to the lowest possible level until such a plan is agreed upon and implemented. 

2001

ICES recommends that an international rebuilding plan is developed for the whole stock.  Until such a plan is agreed upon and implemented, ICES recommends that exploitation be reduced to the lowest possible level.

2002

ICES recommends that an international recovery plan be developed for the whole stock on an urgent basis and that exploitation and other anthropogenic mortalities be reduced to as close to zero as possible, until such a plan is agreed upon and implemented. 

2003

2004

2005

ICES repeats its recommendation that a recovery plan for the whole stock be developed urgently, and that exploitation and other anthropogenic impacts be reduced to as close to zero as possible, until such a plan is agreed upon and implemented.

2006

In order to restore the spawning stock, protective measures have to be implemented. ICES repeats its recommendation that a recovery plan for the whole stock should be implemented urgently. An important element of such a recovery plan should be a ban on all exploitation (including eel harvesting for aquaculture) until clear signs of recovery can be established. Other anthropogenic impacts should be reduced to a level as close to zero as possible.

2007

There is no change in the perception of the status of the stock. The advice remains that urgent actions are needed to avoid the depletion of the eel stock.

Since recruitment remains at an all time low and stock recovery will be a long-term process for biological reasons, ICES recommends that all exploitation and other anthropogenic impacts on production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as low as possible, until there are clear signs of recovery. 

2008

Since recruitment remains in decline and stock recovery is a long-term process for biological reasons, ICES recommends that all exploitation and other anthropogenic impacts on production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible. 

2009

ICES reiterates its previous advice that “all anthropogenic impacts on production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until stock recovery is achieved”.

2010

ICES reiterates its previous advice that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, barriers to passage, habitat alteration, pollution, etc.) affecting production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence that the stock is increasing. A concerted effort by all European countries to conserve eel habitats is urgently needed. 

2011

The status of eel remains critical and urgent action is needed. ICES reiterates its previous advice that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pollution) affecting production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence that both recruitment and the adult stock are increasing.

2012

The status of eel remains critical and urgent action is needed. ICES reiterates its previous advice that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pollution) affecting production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence that both recruitment and the adult stock are increasing.

2013

The status of eel remains critical and urgent action is needed. ICES advises that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pollution) affecting production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible, until there is clear evidence of sustained increase in both recruitment and the adult stock.

2014

The status of eel remains critical and ICES advises that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) affecting production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible.

2015

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing on all stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) affecting production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible. 

2016

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic impacts (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing on all stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) decreasing production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible. 

2017

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic impacts (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing on all stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) that decrease production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible.

2018

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic impacts (e.g. caused by recreational and commercial fishing on all stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) that decrease production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible in 2019 

2019

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic impacts (e.g. caused by recreational and commercial fishing on all stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) that decrease production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to, or kept as close as possible to, zero in 2020.

2020

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied for European eel, all anthropogenic impacts (e.g. caused by recreational and commercial fishing on all life stages, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) that decrease production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to, or kept as close as possible to, zero in 2021.