EU Commission proposes eel fisheries ban in the Baltic Sea

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01 Sep

The European Commission proposes a ban on Baltic Sea eel fisheries due to “alarming scientific evidence and historically low levels”. Eels caught accidentally will have to be released instantly. The ban applies both to commercial and recreational fishing, for the year 2018.

To prevent fish stocks from being exploited to unsustainable levels, the European Commission each year proposes Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for various species. For 2018 the Commission proposal includes a ban on all marine eel fisheries in the Baltic Sea. 

Scientific advice by the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) published in May1 indicated that the European eel stock still is in a critical state, despite numerous measures adopted to allow recovery. Given this severe ICES advice, the Commission consulted and got responses from the Advisory Councils. The Commission is also planning to evaluate the Regulation on the recovery of the European Eel (the Eel regulation). 

EAA welcomes the Commission’s proposed ban on eel fishing at sea (Baltic). We always were sceptical about the effectiveness of the from-river-to-sea escapement 40% goal as the main tool to secure more spawning eels to reach the spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. To secure escapement from rivers to the Baltic Sea is not enough. Secure escapement from the whole of the Baltic Sea to the North Sea is better. 

In 2007 EAA adopted an eel resolution, which still stands. The EAA calls for:
1. Stop, as soon as possible, all fishing for eels at all its life stages
2. Compulsory release of all eel by-catches
3. Stop all commercial fisheries for eel, with potential compensation for loss of income
4. Stop all sales and export of eels and elvers
5. Fishing for eels and elvers should only be allowed for recovery purposes (e.g. tagging and re-stocking)
The full text is available here

This article provides useful background information and analysis of the EU’s eel management efforts, with suggestions to how to improve the management scheme:
“Management of the eel is slipping through our hands! Distribute control and orchestrate national protection”; ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 73, Issue 10, 1 November 2016
Author is Willem Dekker, a lead scientist on the eel issue. The article is available here.


1. Requested by the European Commission, ICES delivered an eel advice 8 May 2017. The ICES advice in short:
ICES provides advice on fisheries-related anthropogenic impacts on eel in EU marine waters, particularly as it relates to achieving the objectives of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the EC Eel Regulation (EC, 2007), based on seven questions posed by the European Commission. The responses to these questions are elaborated on below.
1- ICES considers that, given the current status of the eel stock, the prescribed 50% reduction in marine catches/efforts is not likely to achieve the objectives for the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as they only apply to exploitation by marine fisheries of the European eel.
2- ICES advises that the values of current reported biomass of escapees are uncertain and incomplete and not suitable to provide stock-wide estimates by main maritime area or sea basin. However, for the reporting Eel Management Units (EMUs), escapement biomass ranged from 0% to 140% (140% in heavily restocked areas) of the reported pristine biomass estimates, averaging 25%.
3- ICES advises that catches in marine waters can be quantified, but the effect on the spawning potential and stock recruitment cannot be estimated.
4- ICES advises that none of the measures proposed in the EU request to reduce eel fisheries in EU waters seaward of the baselines would be enough to achieve the 40% escapement biomass target.
5- ICES advises that fishery-specific management measures aimed at reducing fishing mortality for both yellow and silver eel in the marine environment would have a positive impact on the stock. ICES advises that measures for silver eels are more likely to have the most immediate effect on the potential spawning stock.
6- ICES could not identify any management measures for human activities other than fisheries that could be taken in the marine environment seaward of EMUs to protect eel escapement in support of the recovery of the stock.
7- ICES advises that glass eel fisheries have a negative impact on the recruitment and subsequent adult biomass, and the impact may be significant.
Read more in “EU request to provide advice on fisheries-related anthropogenic impacts on eels in EU marine waters”; 8 May 2017

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