In the early hours of Wednesday 19 December, EU Member States reached an agreement on fishing opportunities, which include new eel measures to be in place from the 1st of January 2019.
The final adoption of the agreement will be done by written procedure and the final text will be published in all EU languages in January at the latest.
Mandatory closures agreed for marine fishing for eels
The Fisheries ministers decided(1) to extend the mandatory closures of fishing of the European Eel, a measure already in place in 2018, to recreational fisheries and glass eel fisheries.
Specifically, the Council agreed on a three-month closed period, leaving Member States free to decide the said three months within a seven-month period (from 1 August 2019 to 29 February 2020).
The agreed closed period has been extended from the Commission's proposed five months to seven months by one month in both ends, and it could be assumed that this additional flexibility could have been a request from the glass eel catching fishers/countries.
The closed period does not concern freshwaters as originally proposed by the Commission. Instead, this regulatory framework for the protection and sustainable use of the stock of European eel also applies to the Mediterranean Sea, which is not the case this year.
Another important development is that the closed fishing period for 2019 will apply not only to commercial marine fisheries – as is the case this year - but recreational fisheries, too. The EU ministers also agreed to extend the closed period to all stages of the European eel’s lifecycle, Consequently, next year the closed period also applies to glass eel fishing for the first time.
The eel plan from 2007 remains in force. It contains, among other things, targets for eel escape from inland to the sea (2)
The EAA welcomes the Council decisions on the European Eel as a positive step towards eel stock recovery. However, EU measures should be more ambitious to ensure the eel’s sustainable management. The EAA is deeply concerned with the poor state of the European eel stock and recruitment and has been asking for a long time for a complete ban on eel fishing (3).