While European Union member states have made progress in reducing the fishing effort on eel stocks, and also in developing a framework to protect the species, the status of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) remains critical, according to a new evaluation of the current management conducted by the European Commission (EC).
Twelve years ago, the E.U. adopted the Eel Regulation (EC No. 1100/2007), which provided a long-term strategy aimed at enabling eel numbers to recover. In an effort to protect the stocks and ensure their sustainable use, this mandated E.U. countries to establish eel management plans (EMPs) for river basins with significant eel habitats. The plans provided various measures to:
- Ensure that at least 40 percent of adult eels escape to the sea
- Limit professional and recreational fisheries
- Make it easier for fish to migrate through the rivers
- Restock suitable inland waters with young eels
The EC’s evaluation has found that while the regulation remains an important instrument in helping the European eel to recover by ensuring the management of eels in all their life-stages and addresses both fisheries and non-fisheries related human impact, eel numbers remain at a very low level.
Furthermore, while restocking has been working in some member states, not all have achieved their restocking targets. At the same time, non-fisheries related mortality has not been sufficiently reduced.
The evaluation also finds that the silver eel escapement is still well below the target of 40 percent biomass that would have existed if no human influence had impacted the stock.
Although the eel regulation offers the necessary framework to help restore the stock, its recovery is still far from certain, according to the E.C.
“It is widely recognized that the recovery of the European eel will take many decades, given the long lifespan of the species," it said.
In this respect, the evaluation concluded that greater effort is needed to implement the regulation with a sharper focus on non-fisheries related measures.
Photo courtesy of Marco Maggesi/Shutterstock