Conservation aspects included in ICES fishing opportunities advice

European eel is first fish stock to contain advice on conservation.
Published: 3 November 2022

Conservation advice

There are a number of fish stocks for which ICES provides fishing opportunities advice where anthropogenic pressures other than fishing have a much greater impact. For these stocks, ICES has started to include conservation advice in the respective fishing opportunities advice sheet. European eel is the first stock to be published with this conservation aspect, followed by other stocks in 2023.

The newly published advice on fishing eel has not changed from last year: fishing European eel is not considered sustainable. In 2023, ICES advises that there should be zero catches. This advice applies to fishing eel in all habitats, to both recreational and commercial catches, and includes catches of glass eels for restocking and aquaculture. The conservation status aspect has been added to the advice.

Eel are a diadromous species and similar to other diadromous species, the impacts of human activities (for example environmental changes, pollution, hydropower and pumping station activity, and drainage) are substantial.

European eel is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and appears on the European Red List of Freshwater Fishes.

Following ecosystem-based management considerations, ICES has considered non-fisheries impacts on European eel and advises that "all non-fisheries-related anthropogenic mortalities should be zero"  and that "the quantity and quality of eel habitats should be restored including connectivity, and physical, chemical, and biological properties".

Iconic species
“It's reassuring and fitting to see the recently released ICES eel advice including sections on Conservation status", says Jonathan White, Marine Institute Ireland (incoming Fisheries Resources Steering Group Chair), "European eel is an iconic species, tied into European culture, while the migration of adults to breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea has only recently been confirmed.  The numbers of glass eel arriving to the European coastline from the Sargasso have declined markedly since the 1970s and maturing yellow eel migrating back to spawn have followed this trend. 

The newly included Advice on conservation aspects concisely highlights a fish stock's conservation status and required conservation actions, and goes on to inform of existing conservation measures and sources of human and environmental impacts. The approach will be followed for other Northeast Atlantic and Baltic fish stocks where there are apparent conservation issues, to accompany scientific stock assessments and give a holistic understanding of the status and conservation of fisheries stocks." 

Read the latest advice on European eel in ICES library .​

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Conservation aspects included in ICES fishing opportunities advice

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