June 15th 2021 – The European eel has been struggling for decennia. The species has been listed as severely endagered on the IUCN red list. Despite this alarming status, widespread European eel fisheries are active. In 2017 a general prohibition for eel fishing in coastal waters was implemented, for a period of 3 consecutive months each year. The goal of this measure is to protect eels in their journey to their spawning grounds. The report, published by swedish NGO FishSec, shows that most EU member states have implemented this measure to benefit the fisheries as much as possible, instead of optimally protecting the eel.
Also in the Netherlands the recovery measure has been implemented. During the prohibition period, running from september 1st until november 30th, fishing with pods is prohibited in both coastal and inland waters. This measure has been implemented since the eel protection plan of 2009. In this respect the Netherlands is a frontrunner, since most other EU member states only implemented the measure in 2017, when it became mandatory. In addition, the Dutch prohibition includes inland waters, in addition to coastal waters.
It is remarkable that, despite of the recovery measure, supply of eel has been increasing since 2017. In that light it is also curious that the Netherlands, like Sweden and Denmark, allows for the sale of eel during the prohibition. This means that while you are allowed to sell eel, catching it is illegal. During this period fisheries keep the eel alive until sale. The practice is legal but paves the road for illegal fisheries. Since it is impossible to check when an eel has been caught, it impedes effective control on illegal fishery during the prohibition.