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European eel. (Photo: Stock File)

Furious fishermen as EU try to ban on European eel fishing in Baltic Sea

EUROPEAN UNION
Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

EU Commission is the first to include eel in catch quotas of the European eel that is fighting for survival. In the last 30 years, its population has dropped by 90 per cent. As a result, it is now listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

On August 29, 2017, the European Commission proposed a complete ban on eel fishing in the Baltic Sea. This ban covers both commercial and recreational fishing in the Baltic Sea and will come into effect in 2018.

The Commission said in a statement: "The European Eel stock has been at a historically low level since the late 1990s. In 2007 the EU adopted measures to allow this stock to recover. However, ICES [International Council for the Exploration of the Sea] advice published in May 2017 indicates that these measures have not been sufficient and the stock is still in a critical state. 

"The Commission therefore proposes to ban all marine eel fisheries in the EU waters of the Baltic Sea for 2018," the statement stressed.

This is the first time eel fishing would be regulated within the framework of the catch quotas.

"We have been watching eels become extinct for years, and it is high time to stop fishing this endangered species. An eel fishing ban for the Baltic Sea is therefore a logical step. Ultimately, however, fishing for eels should be stopped in all European and North African waters until the stock recovers. Scientists have been calling for eel fishing to be stopped for the past 17 years," said WWF Germany’s fisheries expert Philipp Kanstinger in German.

In addition to coastal waters, eels also populate rivers and other inland waters. The inland eel fisheries are not affected by the EU Commission's proposal as they are not regulated by EU catch quotas for the North Sea or Baltic Sea.

However, the eels in the rivers and lakes nevertheless face other threats like fishing, pollution and natural predators such as cormorants.

“In our regulated rivers, weirs, turbines and pumps are deadly obstacles in the long journey through Europe for adult eels,” said Kanstinger. He added that many eels do not make it to the sea.

But Lorenz Marckwardt, chairman of the Schleswig-Holstein regional fishing association, said: "I can not understand a total catching ban at the moment."

He said fishermen had been releasing elvers, or baby eels, into the Baltic for the past eight years under EU guidelines, and that the scheme had appeared to be working. 

Norbert Kahlfuss, President of the fishing federation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said his group would fight the ban.

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