Saving the European Eel

This World Fish Migration Day, the importance of maintaining healthy and connected rivers and streams for species that occupy both fresh and marine waters is being highlighted across the globe. Together with scientifically-backed fisheries management schemes, habitat maintenance plays a huge role in the conservation and sustainable use of migrating species, such as the European eel.

This beautiful illustration appears in 1879 book British Fresh Water Fishes by Houghton, W. &  Lydon, A. F.  CreditLydon, A. F/Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This beautiful illustration appears in 1879 book British Fresh Water Fishes by Houghton, W. & 
Lydon, A. F.  CreditLydon, A. F/Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Spawning in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Western Atlantic Ocean, larval European eels migrate into the estuaries, rivers, and lakes of Europe and North Africa, living most of their lives in fresh water. The eel has been hit hard by exploitation, climate change, degradation and loss of freshwater habitat, and migration barriers such as dams and hydropower installations prevalent throughout Europe.

Now listed as Critically Endangered, ‘Glass eel’ recruitment (the first time eels enter freshwater) is thought to have declined to about 90% of that 30 to 50 years ago. With all eels being part of a single stock and having extensive movements, the successful rebuilding and the subsequent creation of sustainable eel fisheries cannot rely solely with one - or even a few - nations.

This article was written for (and can be read in full at) The Fish Site.