France signs death warrant for the eel

Europe's eel populations face being wiped out because France has refused to accept a continent-wide complete ban on the export of glass eels.

European countries are trying to hammer out a deal to allow eel populations to recover – eel numbers have declined by more than 90 per cent in the past 20 years.

Britain has imposed its own temporary ban on fishing for mature eels, and places quotas on the capture of glass eels, the tiny translucent juvenile fish that are born in their millions in the Sargasso Sea and travel to European estuaries to mature into adults.

But demand from China for glass eels has pushed up prices to more than €1,000 (£850) a kilo – similar to cheap caviar – providing fisheries with a major incentive to continue trawling.

Last year, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species called on trade in European eels to be controlled. The EU's Scientific Review Group has recommended a complete ban on exports this winter. But at a meeting in Brussels, France – Europe's largest eel exporter – refused to sign up to a ban. The result is that no quota has been set just as the eel season kicks off.

Campaigners are concerned that France will continue to fish eels in unsustainable numbers this winter. French fishermen have threatened to go on strike if a ban is brought in.

Compared to Britain, which accounts for only 2 per cent of Europe's annual eel catch, France is a major exporter of glass eels to Asia and uses mechanised trawlers in the Bay of Biscay to fish for them.

Last year the total Cites-recommended French export quota was 14 tonnes, but campaigning groups that track fishing exports accuse France of shipping more than this to China alone.

"Exploitation of eels by any one member state impacts the region's entire eel population and therefore management purely at the national level makes no sense," said Stephanie von Meibom, the European programme co-ordinator of the conservation group Traffic. "It is inconsistent with EU policy which emphasises harmony, consistency and coherence between member states."

Pollution, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices have led to a 90 per cent drop-off in worldwide eel populations, scientists say.

Although the Japanese usually insist on eating their indigenous eels, the Chinese and Koreans are less fussy and import millions of European glass eels, which are then grown to maturity before being eaten.

Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Holland, Britain and parts of Spain have brought in their own quotas or bans. But the comparatively lax approach by the French authorities has placed pressure on other European fishermen to flout those bans.

Peter Wood, managing director of UK Glass Eels, accused the French of behaving selfishly and of feeding off the sacrifices of other nations. "They do seem very keen in France to continue to export everything to Asia, and that seems to me a huge loss of a valuable resource," he said.

"They've got this idea that they have this resource of glass eels and it is theirs to do with as they see fit. But it's a collective resource. Most of the glass eels came from breeding stock from other European nations. Some have come from comprehensive restocking programmes in the past, like in Northern Ireland and Sweden. Stock from these countries has gone back to the Sargasso Sea to breed."

Suggested Topics
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'