Why care about eels?
Eels play an important socio-economic and ecological role in many European countries. The stock of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), like those of the Japanese and American eel, has declined dramatically in recent times. Recruitment of glass eels has fallen to below 5% of peak levels (Figure 1) and catches of yellow and silver eels have declined from 20,000t in the 1960s to less than 10,000t today (Figure 2).
The stock is judged to be outside safe biological limits and the EU’s Eel Recovery Plan aims to maximize silver eel production and escapement to the sea to ensure that enough eels reach the spawning grounds and sufficient larvae are produced to reverse the stock’s decline. However, the potential of European eel stocks to recover is uncertain because the processes that determine how European stocks are sustained are not fully understood. In particular, the technical difficulties of studying the marine ecology of eels have hampered the development of knowledge about the critical phases of spawning, population structure, larval transport, recruitment and spawner escapement.
|Figure 1. Recruitment of glass eels over last 50 years||Figure 2. Eel catches over last 50 years|