Posted by: thewideblueyonder | December 11, 2008

European eels to feel the pinch at Xmas

10 Dec 2008
Stockholm, Sweden: The European eel, categorized as “critically endangered” by the IUCN and red-listed in WWF’s fish guide, is set for a rough Christmas if Baltic ferry line menus are an accurate guide.

Several major Baltic ferry operators, including Silja Line/Tallink, Viking Line and Eckerö Linjen (which all happen to come from Finland) still serve eel to their guests as part of their Christmas buffet.

“The situation for eels is extremely dire,” said Lasse Gustavsson, CEO of WWF Sweden. “We encourage the entire restaurant industry and all responsible restaurant owners to immediately remove eel from their Christmas buffets.”

The number of eels entering rivers in Europe has dropped incredibly to just 1 per cent of pre-1980 levels, with no obvious cause. Possible reasons include over-exploitation, inland habitat loss, climate and ocean current change, disease and pollution.

Eel was added to the CITES convention in June 2007 and the listing will come into effect on 13 March 2009, after which time all parties to the convention will be required to issue permits for all exports of the species. An export permit may be issued only if the specimen was legally obtained and if the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.

“If we are to enjoy eel with a clear conscience in the future, we must give the species a chance to recover and for population sizes to increase.”

Some companies claim to sell farmed eel but these are in fact wild eel that have been caught and fattened. “There has not been any real success in breeding eel in captivity and claims of ‘ecological eel farming’ are simply false marketing,” says Inger Näslund, responsible for fisheries issues at WWF Sweden.

In southern Sweden the organic farm and restaurant Ängavallen has decided not to serve eel in its Christmas buffet. Instead, a portion of the revenue from the buffet is donated to a special eel fund involving researchers and environmental organisations. The aim is to raise €10 000 and the funds will be used to support a project that will increase the eel population in a long-term, sustainable fashion.

Courtesy of WWF News Centre

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