CCB’s reaction to the December EU Fisheries Council decision on eel
The critically endangered eel was sidelined yet again at the EU Fisheries Council. The Ministers of EU Member States only managed to agree on a short fishery closure period of their own choice. The decision represents a remarkable disregard of MSY and CFP rules and the Ministers fought to keep fishing open on an endangered species in an unprecedented way. The small sliver of hope is in the signed commitment to do more for eel and CCB will now turn attention to the Minsters demanding them to be true to their word. CCB acknowledges and thank for the work done by the Commission and Commissioner Vella for standing up for the rules and the protection of eels.
The matter of increased protection for the critically endangered eel was discussed over two days at the Fisheries Minsters Council meeting in Brussels 11-12th of December and a final outcome was presented in the early hours of December 13th. The Commission had proposed a total ban for all eel fishing on adult eels in the marine waters of the EU and presented a paper of commitment for the Member States to support and agree to step up protection measures in all waters.
The result of the discussions is a huge disappointment. Despite the fact that science has called for all mortality as close to zero as possible and the downward trend in eel recruitment is continuing, member states only accepted a short migration closure period for three months, however it is up to each country to decide when in the period from 1st of September to 31st of January next year. Firstly, this period is not at all well timed with actual migration and second, Member states can for example chose winter months November to January when virtually no fishing takes place anyway.
Several member states fiercely defended a fishery on endangered eels and refused to close the marine fishery. By doing so, the Member States openly disregard the rules of the sustainable fishing levels, undermined the possibilities of reaching good environmental status and the goals of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) as well as the UN sustainable development goals. By defending a fishery on a critically endangered species for example based on traditions, the EU member states also aligned themselves with nations that proclaim a right to hunt for whales.
It seems as if the status of the eel cannot get bad enough for any Member State to react. In addition, their arguments and actions clearly gives the impression that the Ministers thinks the best way to protect an endangered species is to fish for it and eat it. CCB must underline that it is neither possible nor valid to compare eel with any other fish species, because of the eel’s long life cycle and terrible status. It is not acceptable to talk about sustainable use of a fish resource when recruitment has all but collapsed and yet a main argument presented by several Member States is: we have done enough already.
The hopeful part of the outcome is a declaration supported by the Minsters on next steps and needed actions. Also this text was opposed in the first draft version but there remains some important statements:
- All acknowledge that the stock of European eel is in critical condition
- Urgent action is needed to ensure the recovery of the stock across its natural range and that measures that further reduce eel mortality caused by human influences during all eel life stages need to be in place as from 2018
- Supporting that the Commission will launch an external evaluation of the Eel Regulation early 2018 with a view to its possible revision
- More emphasis on inland measures: fisheries, recreational fisheries, hindrances and habitats
CCB is committed to improving the chances for the eel recovery and we now demand from the Member States to do more and we can only repeat the message sent in a letter to all Minsters before the Council meeting, what more are you willing to do now?