CITES: Brighter future for the European eel
The Hague, The Netherlands, 11 June 2007—The future of the European eel looks brighter after governments representatives attending the CITES Conference accepted a proposal from the European Union to list this fish species on Appendix II of the convention. Appendix II allows trade in a species under strict conditions.
“Today’s decision is good news for the European eel and a major conservation achievement,” said Stéphane Ringuet, of TRAFFIC, the wildlife monitoring network. “The success of the EU proposal will help ensure that use and trade of this species are well-managed and legal, which is essential to its survival.”
According to WWF and TRAFFIC, populations of the European eel have declined throughout most of the species’ distribution area and are now threatened.
Eels are overexploited for their meat which is consumed mostly in Europe and parts of East Asia. Human impacts are also reducing and polluting their habitat, such as lakes, rivers and estuaries, the two organizations say.
“It is vital that European countries but also countries where the eel occurs, such as North African countries, take urgent measures to tackle all the environmental problems leading to the decline of the species,” Ringuet added.
Illegal trade involving organized criminal gangs, especially in Southern Europe, and significant international trade of live young eels from Europe to Asia (particularly China and Japan) for aquaculture, are additional concerns for this species, previous TRAFFIC reports have shown.
European eels, a long-lived, large body-sized fish, spend most of their life in freshwater but adults migrate to the Sargasso Sea, in the Atlantic Ocean, to breed. It takes then about one year for young eels to return to Europe.