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News|29 Aug, 2017

Stop the fishing of eel in the Baltic Sea

The European Eel (Anguilla anguilla)

The European Eel is a critically endangered fish species with a dramatic decline the past 30 years,  less than 5% is left of the stock.  Conservation efforts have so far failed to deliver and scientific experts have repeatedly called for drastic management measures. Today the EU Commission presented a proposal to ban all fishing for eel in the Baltic Sea. WWF welcomes this proposal and calls upon all Member States to complete this eel fishing ban in all of theirs waters, combined with other conservation efforts.

The European eel is a unique fish, a survivor from pre-historic times living through several ice ages. Human impact on the eel stock has been devastating and conservation efforts have so far been insufficient. The stock has declined rapidly, from being very common in most of the Baltic Sea Region’s coasts, lakes and streams, to being a rare and  in need for radical action not to face total extinction. In an attempt to give more adult eels the chance to spawn, the EU Commission is recognizing the commercial fishery of eel and proposing to stop fishing on eel in Baltic Sea waters for 2018.

“This gives hope and a strong signal from the Commission that much more must be done to protect the European eel,” says Ottilia Thoreson, Acting Director of WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

We risk losing this fish species right in front of our eyes by not acting on the clear advice given by scientific experts. The EU Commission has now taken action with the proposal to stop fishing on eel, increasing the eel’s chance to recover. WWF supports the proposal but want to underline that even more must be done. A total ban for all fishing of eel in Europe and Northern Africa needs to be in place. There is only one single stock of eel and regardless of where and how, all eel fishing must be stopped until the population shows signs of recovery. We must also stress that national governments need to ensure that upstream measures such as migration routes around hydropower dams and opening dams during migration season for eel is a necessity.

“We call upon all countries to honor their commitment to protect the European eel, uphold the EU fishing and environmental rules as well as international agreements to stop the loss of biodiversity, “  says Ottilia Thoreson.

Background information:

The European Eel  (Anguilla anguilla) stock has been at a historically low level since the late 1990s. It is today listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2007 the EU adopted measures to allow this stock to recover. However, ICES advice published in May 2017 indicates that these measures have not been sufficient and the stock is still in a critical state. The Commission therefore proposes to ban all marine eel fisheries in the EU waters of the Baltic Sea for 2018. This ban would apply to commercial and recreational fishing. This also means that all eels caught accidentally will have to be released immediately. In addition, the Commission is planning to evaluate the Regulation on the recovery of the European eel.


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Last modified 22/11/19

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