Baby glass eels. (Photo: Stock Fie)
Breeding eels in captivity could help plunging stocks
Monday, July 05, 2010, 23:20 (GMT + 9)
The Dutch Sustainable Eel Sector Foundation (DUPAN) intends to replenish inland waters in the Netherlands with glass eels to increase withering eel stocks. But Professor of Aquaculture and Fisheries at Wageningen University Johan Verreth said success is not guaranteed and he recommends resorting to aquaculture instead.
“It's hard to say if this will have any effect,” Verreth said. “If it's true that 12-20 per cent of these glass eels eventually make it to adulthood, as the foundation asserts, then that's quite a lot.”
“Then there'd be a real chance of having more eels swimming around our inland waters in the not too distant future. That would provide scope for a small amount of fishing and breeding,” he continued, reports Resource, the newspaper for Wageningen University and Research Centre.
Verreth believes that the deeply problematic eel situation in Europe has probably been caused by a combination of factors. Scientists actually know very little about what has caused the dramatic drop in the eel population.
Fishers and breeders are having a particularly rough time due to the dwindling stocks, as the government is trying to find solutions which harm these particular target groups, he said.
Huge numbers of fish are crushed by hydro-electric power stations, Verreth told, and there might be more that can be done apart from what officials have tried so far.
“And what's happening in the sea? Last year there was a sudden spate of glass eels, about 40 per cent more than usual, entering France. We don't understand what caused that,” he acknowledged.
“But it's crystal clear that the decline of glass eels swimming inland from the sea is dramatic. We've got to do something about it,” he asserted.
If the sale of eels comes to a halt in the Netherlands, a part of the national culture would disappear and the market may well vanish forever. Verreth said this is why it is positive to preserve eel consumption on a limited scale.
The real solution to the problem of dwindling stocks, he declared, is to propagate and breed eels in captivity.
“In this way you can look after and restore the wild eel population. The domesticated animals can then be used for consumption,” he concluded.
The European eel has been eaten to the edge of extinction and is consequently now subject to strict cross-border trade certification and quota requirements set in 2007 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
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By Natalia Real