The status of eel remains critical and urgent action is needed. Fishing and other human activities that kill eels should be brought to as close as zero as possible, according to advice released today by ICES.
Many European fish stocks are overfished, but none are quite as overfished as the endangered European eel.
The abundance of juvenile eels has been declining continuously since the 1950s. ICES scientists have concluded that the eel recruitment index (a measure of recent spawning success) is at a historical low, less than 1% for the North Sea compared to 1960–1979.
ICES reiterates its previous advice that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pollution) affecting production and escapement of eels should be reduced to as close to zero as possible until there is clear evidence that both recruitment and the adult stock are increasing.
The European Parliament is currently reviewing the EU’s Eel recovery plan, which was drawn up in 2007 and requires member states to take measures that allow 40 % of adult eels to escape from inland waters to the sea, where they can spawn. EU countries earlier this year submitted to the Commission their evaluations on the effectiveness of these plans.
All eels in Europe belong to the same stock and migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.
The current ICES assessment of the eel stock is based on national fish stock surveys and indications from commercial catches. In the recent past, monitoring the abundance of juvenile eels has been the main tool for assessing the eel stock status. In the future, new analyses and compilations of data on the adult eel stock may be available, which are expected to improve the assessment in 2013.