The European eel, which is declared in danger of extinction, continues without improving its population or reducing its mortalityaccording to a report by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) which indicates that In Spain, only the Balearic Islands have reached the goal that 40% of the specimens manage to escape to the sea.r. Faced with this situation, WWF and ANSE demand that the European Commission establish urgent measures to stop the decline of the species, reduce its mortality and propose measures such as the closure or substantial restriction of its fishing, the restoration of freshwater habitats and removal of barriers in rivers.
The study, published this week, collects the results of the evaluation of the application of national management plans for the European eel, a critically endangered species. Thus, he concludes that since 2012 there has been no improvement in the EU in the percentage of eels that have managed to escape to the sea.
The objective established by the European Commission to reduce the mortality of the European eel is to achieve the escape into the sea of at least 40 percent of the biomass of European eels. Nevertheless, silver eel escapement is not increasing and has even decreased in several areas since Member States first reported the implementation of these plans in 2012.
The report shows that only nine out of a total of 84 eel management units (such as catchments, river basins) in the EU met or exceeded the escapement target, down from 16 units that met the target in 2012, and only one of these shows a constant increasing trend in escapement of silver eel.
The fisheries coordinator of WWF Spain, Raúl García, has described “disappointing” evaluation resultswho really question the EU’s eel recovery measures.
Close or restrict fisheries
Thus, it adds that since the regulation was adopted in 2007, NGOs do not see signs of recovery, which is why it urges the EU and its Member States to adhere to the scientific advice of the ICES and the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, closing or substantially restricting fisheries.
They must also urgently address measures to improve access to suitable habitats, the vast majority of which have to be restored. removing artificial barriers that impede their migrationand improving its ecological status, as required by the Water Framework Directive, and reinforcing the fight against illegal fishing and international trafficking”, comments Raúl García, fisheries coordinator for WWF Spain.
For its part, from ANSE, Carmen Martínez has highlighted that the recommendations of the experts also affect the need to reduce “as much as possible” its mortality from causes produced by human activity, in addition to fishing, such as habitat degradation and fragmentationdue to the barrier effect they can have, especially for such long-lived species.
Martínez explains that ANSE and WWF have been working for eight years on the marking and monitoring of eels that live in different aquatic ecosystems in the Iberian southeast, mainly around the Mar Menor and the south of Alicante, and are confirming the importance of coastal channels and wetlands as reservoir, not only natural ones, but also some artificial ones.
“If we want to improve eel populations, it is essential to act on freshwater habitatsand promote management of rivers and regulatory infrastructures that take into account their role in the life cycle of the European eel”, he defended.
Currently, most countries continue to allow eel fishing in its different phases, despite being listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2008.
Criticism of the European Commission
Both NGOs criticize that the European Commission did not echo the ICES recommendation to close all European fisheries, in all types of habitats and for all stages of development, in the Council of Fisheries Ministers of December 2021, and limited itself to reinforcing the three-month ban on fishing. Since then, the Commission is expected to make public the proposal for new measures for the recovery of the European eel next autumn.
Finally, value some measures taken in Spain in recent years, such as a ten-year fishing moratorium in Andalusia, which has been recently extended; the prohibition of non-professional fishing in the Valencian Community; o the reduction of the fishing period and the implementation of a quota for professional fishing in the Region of Murcia; as well as efforts to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
NGOs trust that investments in restoration of riverbeds and wetlands to facilitate the recovery of river connectivity, as well as a more effective implementation of an ecological flow regime in many more Iberian rivers, have a positive effect in some key eel basins in the coming years.
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