BSAC report on the EP hearing on the eel regulation

Tuesday, 27th June 2023 – 14.30-16.30

The implementation of the Eel Regulation 1100/2007

Mr Pierre Karleskind, PECH Chair – welcome and opening address
The PECH Chair opened the hearing on the Eel Regulation. He expressed hope that the hearing will provide evidence and guidance for better implementation of the Eel Regulation. He stated that the decline of eel seems to have stopped and therefore now it is time to make sure not to end up again in overfishing and IUU. He referred to the EP PECH Committee draft report prepared to shed some light on European eel.

Dr Ciara O’Leary, Inland Fisheries Ireland, “Eel Monitoring Programme” spoke on the eel monitoring programme in Ireland. The Eel Monitoring Programme began in 2009 to monitor the population of European eel in Ireland’s rivers, lakes and estuaries. This programme was created in response to European legislation that required Member States to develop an eel management plan and to establish measures for eel stock recovery. Studies of all stages of eel life cycle are carried out. Tagging studies help to estimate population size, while acoustic telemetry allows us to track eel movements. Lack of eel in some rivers causes concern.

Phd Maria João Correia, University of Lisbon, “Stock assessment tools to assist the recovery of the eel stock”
The researcher from Lisbon University presented stock assessment tools to assist stock recovery. She underlined that the eel distribution area is very large. This makes quantitative assessment of the stock very uncertain. There is a diversity of factors that affect eel during the life cycle. Therefore it is difficult to estimate their biomass. There are multiple scales of management areas (eel management units). The Eel Regulation mandates a management regime oriented toward targets of escaping silver eel biomass. The objective is to reduce anthropogenic mortalities so as to permit with high probability the escapement to the sea of at least 40% of the silver eel biomass. Fishing closures are insufficient to achieve 40% of B0 reference point. She underlined that restocking is a controversial measure. Eel passes installed in rivers need to be assessed for efficiency, because habitat degradation is an important factor in the decline of eel.

Mr Allan Buch, Vice-President of Danish Fishermen Producer Organisation “How to reduce mortality on eel whilst maintaining a fishery?”
He talked about eel fisheries in Denmark. Denmark has substantially reduced commercial eel fishery according to the eel management plan. He underlined that other sources of mortality than fisheries need to be considered and dealt with. There are more factors than direct human activities that have an impact on the eel stock. Predation from cormorants have increased many-fold over the last decades and are bound to have significant impact. The information provided by fishers should be taken into account in eel management.

Mr Albert Jan Maat, President of NetVisWerk, a Dutch association of small-scale freshwater and coastal fishers, “Effective Eel Management and the Role of the Fishers”
He spoke on behalf of Belgian and Dutch fishers. He praised the Parliament for organising the hearing. He underlined the lack of implementation of the eel regulation in some Member States. The member States are responsible for effective implementation of the policy. Countries that do not have management plans for eel or have not implemented should be addressed in the first place. He mentioned that the main reason for decline of eel are barriers to its migration. He expressed the view that it is unacceptable that ICES bases its advice on uncomprehensive data. His organisation calls on the European Parliament to ask the Member States to implement national plans. Restrictions imposed on fisheries alone will not deliver results. Better research is also needed to improve the stocks.

Mr Andrew Kerr, Chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG), “How the SEG Standard can help combating illegal trade and improving traceability and certification? He spoke on traceability and certification aimed at combatting illegal trafficking and improving traceability. An international board has been established – Sustainable Eel Group – SEG. They believe in primacy of the eel regulation. He presented the SEG standard1 that contributes to saving glass eel. He also underlined that international trade of the European eel towards East Asia has significantly increased in the past decades and has raised concern within the international community, that listed the species in Annex II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Since the listing came into force in 2009, exports of this species need to be accompanied by a permit. However, in 2010, the EU has banned all imports and exports of European eel to and from the EU. To help protect the European eel, one of the key strategies of SEG is to combat illegal fishing and trade. They do this to minimise the harm to and loss of this vulnerable species and maximise the value to those legitimate fishers and traders who operate responsibly. Under-reporting, poaching and illegal trade of the European eel have occurred, endangering the species and making the assessment of the impact of fishery, and its management, difficult. In June 2017, SEG identified that about 30 tonnes of eels, half of the declared European catches in seasons 2015/2016 and 2016/2017, equivalent to 100 million (and twice the level of eels consumed domestically in Europe through aquaculture), could not be traced and were likely traded to East Asia.


Several MEPs took the floor to make brief statements:
Danish MEP: the problem of illegal trade of eel should be solved. A stop in fishery for 6 months not good. Dutch MEP: illegal trade is a huge problem, but there are also other problems such as migration barriers, preventing eels to reach their habitats. There is a need to support the work done voluntarily by recreational fishermen. He supported the EP draft report on eel. MEPs from Portugal: there is a need to reduce fishing pressure and improve the habitats. Important and drastic measures are needed now. There is also a need for more research and data on eel. Science should be clear on restocking. Dutch MEP: there is a need for better cooperation with fishers. The use of fishers knowledge is crucial to eel recovery. MEP Ireland: eel is a long-lived species; we need to be thinking ahead.

Floor to DG MARE, European Commission
The representative of DG Mare underlined that eel needs to be addressed from all the angles. DG Mare, DG ENV and DG Trade work together to address the issue. The need to deal with the migration barriers in rivers and how to address illegal trade are in focus. It is evident that fishing is not the only factor responsible for the degradation of eel. The eel regulation has been in place since 2007 and its implementation has at least stopped the decline. Working with MS to further improve the plans. The eel regulation looks at all factors in a holistic way. There is a need to further bridge the gaps between environmental legislations and eel regulation. Together with ICES, the Commission is looking at how to improve reporting from MS to have better data. COM is also considering how the citizen science can help. She referred to the fact that eel is mentioned in Commission’s Action Plan, as part of policy package. Further measures and actions will be discussed with the Member States. There are funding possibilities for eel management initiatives under the Mission Oceans and Horizon Europe.

Wrap-up and conclusions by Mr Bert-Jan Ruissen, PECH Rapporteur Draft report 2 The PECH rapporteur expressed the opinion that the Eel Regulation is a good, holistic instrument, but that its implementation can be improved. In particular, the problem of migration barriers has not been tackled sufficiently, while fishing activity has been significantly restricted. This has also been concluded by evaluations of the European Commission. In recent times, the focus of policy makers has been on further reduction of the eel fisheries. This is showcased by the Council decision on fishing opportunities of December 2022, restricting the marine and coastal fishing of eel with a six-month closing period. The rapporteur was of the view that this is not the right way forward for the recovery of the eel. The Eel Regulation needs to be recognized as the core policy and most suitable instrument for eel management. The rapporteur made several recommendations for better implementation of the Eel Regulation, such as improving the governance model in order to allow for feedback and updates of the EMPs, recognising the essential role of the fishers, continuing the policy of restocking, tackling migration barriers, stepping up the fight against IUU, promoting scientific research, and harmonising data collection. In his view, some MS are not doing enough to implement the Regulation. Not all report to the Commission. These Member States must be called upon to respect the regulation. He proposed to establish an advisory council for eel. As long as migration barriers exist, there is a need to invest in releasing glass eels to maintain the stock. Illegal trade should be eliminated. Certification can play an important role in mitigating illegal activities.

Date Posted: June 27, 2023

Want to join an upcoming meeting?

Register Now

Related News

We use third-party cookies to personalise content and analyse site traffic.

Learn more