The Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) is calling for EU action to prevent illegal fishing and trafficking of European eel before it is too late. The European eel is critically endangered; key measures for its protection are limiting of fishing and enforcing existing trade control measures. Within these restrictions it is forbidden to export eel outside the EU. Enforcement agencies estimate, however, that at least 110m juvenile glass eels have already been trafficked from Europe to Asia’s eel farms this season. Trafficking has to stop, because this wildlife trade undermines the measures for the protection of the eel. Andrew Kerr, Chairman of SEG stated: “The failure to control the selling and distribution of European Eel is threatening the whole recovery effort – for every eel legally eaten, 3 to 5 are being trafficked”.
Evidence shows that the trade ban adopted by the EU in 2010, is not being sufficiently implemented by EU Member States. The French Le Comité national des pêches maritimes et des élevages marins recently stated that France’s declared catch alone had reached 140 million glass eels and has another month to run. An instant market survey this week revealed that only some 30 million had been sold to legitimate European markets. The rest had vanished. SEG is calling on the European Commission to enforce existing measures restricting trade of the eel under CITES and the Commission Regulation (EU) no 1320/2014, banning all imports and exports of European eel to and from the EU. Additionally, full traceability of all eel trade is obliged by EU Eel Regulation and in particular its Article 12 on control and enforcement of trade. Insufficient implementation of trade controls and the resulting trafficking frustrates the European Eel Recovery Programme as mandated by the EU Eel Regulation. Consequently, trafficking threatens the survival of the species, by undermining its protection and sustainable use and ultimately some 10,000 jobs.