MP highlights eel conservation

MP highlights eel conservation Zac Goldsmith MP releases European eels to highlight the struggle of the endangered species. Photo: Sustainable Eel Group

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and Kingston North and the government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference champion, released European eels into the Thames with the leading eel conservation charity, the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG), to highlight the plight of the endangered species.

The number of eels reaching Europe has declined by 90% since the 1970s and the species is now classified as critically endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This population decline can be attributed to habitat destruction and man-made barriers, such as weirs and dams, with the vast illegal trade of European eels undermining species recovery. According to Europol, 300 to 350 million European eels are illegally trafficked every year from Europe to Asia, accounting for almost one quarter of the total number of glass eels (juvenile eels) entering European waters every year. The illicit trade has been estimated to be worth approximately €3 billion every year.

“It is shocking to hear that at least 300 million European eels are trafficked every year. It is the greatest wildlife crime on the planet by value, air miles and volume but the least well known. It is therefore vital that we speed up progress on tackling this illicit trade. I must praise Andrew and the Sustainable Eel Group on the work they are doing to help with the recovery of this precious species, most noticeably their collaborative approach to tackling this shocking wildlife crime,” Zac Goldsmith said.

“The European eel has been declining for at least a century and very rapidly for the 30 years to 2010 - so much so that it was listed as critically endangered,’ commented Andrew Kerr, Chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group, said.

“However, at the 2019 SEG Conference it became clear that a turning point has been reached and conservation efforts are having a positive impact. This is the first sign of hope and we must now redouble our efforts to save the eel.”

The eel release follows on from the recent announcement by Europol, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and Spain’s Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) that Europol enforcers have seized 15 million endangered European eels so far this 2018/2019 season, with 153 arrests across the EU. This is a 50% increase in arrests for this illegal wildlife crime since last season.

“This is our flagship operation in terms of environmental crime. All the arrests mentioned are in Europe with the majority from Spain, France and Portugal. The main actions have been taken from SEPRONA, they have led the way in Europe along with the Portuguese and French authorities,” said Jose Antonio Alfaro Moreno from Europol, adding that there are also five ongoing criminal cases in the USA carried out by the US Fish and Wildlife Service involving the illegal import of eel meat coming from Asia containing DNA of the European Eel.  “Glass eels are trafficked out of the EU, put into eel farms in Asia and then sent back to the US, Canada and the EU which is how we can track the DNA. The development of this technology being used in monitoring the DNA of the eel has allowed us to prove that the European eel is coming from Asia. We have also collaborated with the EU Enforcement Group and the EU Food Fraud Network,” he said.

Jose Antonio Alfaro Moreno commented that the people arrested in Europe are poachers, mules and members from other criminal networks.

“We have focused not just looking at trafficking glass eels as a single issue, but the wider criminal networks. Year after year, more countries are joining our actions. For example, this year we are carrying out more work in Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and Macedonia,” he said.

“For the next season, we want to follow the line of the inquiry into eel meat production in Asia and DNA traces. With this, we expect more countries to get involved with high ambition for action. The criminal groups learn and develop their methods, so Europol need to stay one step ahead.”

LATEST PRESS RELEASES

MFV ‘Atlantic Titan’ – 90 foot crab and demersal fish Trawler

Shipbuilding Asia and Macduff Ship Design are pleased to announce the completion and handover of a n... Read more

The fight against IUU fishing

The issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and their harmful effects are hardly ... Read more

AST iRAMS Maritime Fuel Saving Analysis

AST iRAMS Maritime Fuel Saving Analysis Read more

New Cleopatra 33 for a hunting of lobster delivered to Fraserburgh, Scotland

A new Cleopatra boat was delivered to Fraserburgh on the north eastern coast of Scotland. Read more

PVC rain gear - innovating to meet the evolving demands of aquaculture

Aquaculture is an evolving sector and as such presents a range of challenges to suppliers of wet wea... Read more

A progressing cavity pump with EHEDG certification – is that really new?

The EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group) was founded in the last century at the end ... Read more

View all