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New Reports Show Eels are Critically Endangered

11 December 2013

GLOBAL - Just as this year’s Christmas dinners are being planned, several alarming reports about the condition eels are being released. Not only threatened by overfishing, also hydropower plants are killing hundreds of thousand eels every year.

New reports from both marine scientists at ICES, as well as HELCOM, are classifying the eel’s condition as critically endangered.

In Europe eel numbers have declined by at least 95 per cent during the past 30 years. All human activities that are affecting the eel’s mortality needs to come to zero if the species should have any chance of survival.

"Most people today know that the eel is a threatened species, but I’m not so sure people know to what extent. All science says that there is an extremely high risk for the eel to go extinct if nothing is done. The wild population is almost gone," said Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s project manager in the Baltic Sea.

But fisheries aren’t the only thing threatening the eel. Migration barriers are another big problem. Dams supporting hydropower production have made migration in the majority of Sweden’s water streams impossible for fish.

Thousands of dams are permanent migration barriers which have decimated fish populations and forced species out of our streams. And even though an EU directive tells countries to alter and enhance the migration routes of the fish, there’s hasn’t been any sufficient action.

Eel is one of the most affected species when it comes to migration barriers. Sweden’s department for agricultural science estimates that around 300,000 eels are dying every year by getting chopped to pieces in hydropower turbines or by getting stuck grid intakes.

In the Baltic Sea, one the countermeasure for the staggering decline has been to capture young eels and then place them along the coasts of the Baltic.

"But that’s not a sustainable practice since the young eels need to be taken from somewhere and they are threatened in all of Europe. Furthermore, there is little evidence that these eels make it back to the Sargasso Sea for spawning and reproduction. So essentially, eel stocking is just a way of keeping unsustainable fisheries alive," said Oceana fisheries expert Magnus Eckeskog.

TheFishSite News Desk



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