Will the eel survive its management?

Jun 07, 2011

The European eel is on the way to disappearing for good. The species is critically endangered, and there are strong scientific arguments for suspending all fishing. Despite this situation, Swedish eel fishery is allowed to continue. Analysis of the eel management plan by the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment identifies clear shortcomings. It is unlikely that Sweden will meet the target that has been set for silver eels capable of migrating back to the Sargasso Sea so that they can contribute to regeneration.

The recruitment of new annual cohorts of European has decreased over a long period, and today it represents only a few per cent of what it was 30 to 50 years ago. The eel is particularly sensitive to overfishing, as it becomes sexually mature at an advanced age, but there also other reasons for its decline. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has long warned of the consequences of the ongoing , and since 1998 the Council has recommended that an eel management plan should be adopted at the European level. Since 2007, the European Commission has also required all eel-fishing Member States to develop a plan to reduce eel mortality caused by human activity. In Sweden, the Swedish Board of has been tasked by the Government with taking responsibility for a national eel management plan.

Many measures are listed under the plan: prohibition of for eel, special professional fishing licences for eel, modified fishing times, closure of yellow eel fishing on the west coast and increased stockings of juvenile eels. There is also a declaration of intent by the Swedish Board of Fisheries together with six power companies to reduce mortality due to eels being sucked into the turbines of hydropower plants.

The analysis of the Swedish eel management plan by the Swedish Institute for the identifies a number of shortcomings. Some of these are listed below:

  • There is a clear conflict between conserving the eel as a species and preserving the eel fishery. The management is aimed at "mitigating" the adverse effects of eel fishery and other human activity instead of guaranteeing that the conservation target is met. By comparison, both Norway and Ireland have introduced a complete suspension of all eel fishery so that migration back to the Sargasso Sea will increase.
  • The material on which the plan is based is deficient and lacks critical scrutiny. There is uncertainty in stock assessment which has not been taken into account. There is therefore a great risk of overestimating the size of the stock and continuing to over-exploit.
  • The operationalisation of targets as requirements and measures is inadequate – the gains considered to be made from stockings, fishery regulation and reduced turbine mortality are based more on hope than on solid data. Implementation of the plan takes place or is intended to take place over a very long period of time. Even if the plan is eventually followed, it is unlikely that 2.6 million silver eels will be able to migrate, which is Sweden's target. This is due among other things to relatively extensive eel fishery still being permitted and uncertain results from the stocking of Swedish waters with French and British juvenile eels; the eel may be disoriented and it is doubtful whether it will find its way back to the to spawn.

Explore further: Researchers developing new strategies for controlling the western corn rootworm beetle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Where have all the lake eels gone? Queen's prof asks

Dec 14, 2007

A Queen’s University environmental scientist will head a new international study to determine whether American eels – the slimy, snake-like fish considered worldwide to be a food delicacy – are dying from chemical pollution ...

Eel-like catfish can 'walk' on land

Apr 13, 2006

A researcher at Belgium's Ghent University reportedly has discovered an eel-like catfish that can wriggle out of the water to stalk prey on land.

Britain steamed over tuna rules

May 10, 2007

Britain's fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw is calling on the European Union to ban fishing for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea.

Recommended for you

Weather-tracking tool helps track migrating insects

2 minutes ago

Corn earworms (also known as cotton bollworms) cost cotton producers an estimated $200 million a year in lost crops and control expenses, and they are notoriously hard to track because they migrate at night. ...

Alaska refuge proposes killing invasive caribou

15 hours ago

Federal wildlife officials are considering deadly measures to keep an Alaska big game animal introduced more than 50 years ago to a remote island in the Aleutians from expanding its range.

User comments : 0