The upcoming evaluation of the EU’s Eel Regulation has been welcomed by multiple NGOs, saying that the evaluation will be a good step towards the conservation of the European eel.

As the Eel Regulation enters its second decade, the NGOs, which include the Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF and the Good Fish Foundation, have released their input on May 11 to the European Commission’s ‘roadmap’ on the subject. They wrote “we strongly support the upcoming evaluation and welcome this opportunity to provide feedback on the effectiveness and implementation of the EU Eel Regulation”.

In a list of aspects that they hope the EU will take into account during the evaluation process, the NGOs are encouraging the EU to consider the reporting and data obligations of the counties involved; the use of public funds and whether it has helped to aid eel recovery; the effects on conservation of the substantial illegal trade of European eel both inside and outside the EU, the effectiveness of restocking practices, and the effectiveness of fisheries closures.

The NGOs concluded by saying “it is our hope that through implementation of urgent measures and better management and protection in the future, we can enable long-term recovery and sustainable exploitation of European eel., but we note that we are a very long way from there today”.

Comments about the forthcoming evaluation were also made by the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG), a European-wide conservation and science led organisation working with partner bodies and individuals to accelerate the eel’s recovery. The organisation has called for the evaluation to examine the implementation across member states.

Highlighting the need to combat the illegal trade of eels, the SEG believes that the Eel regulation is very much fit for purpose, and the problem lies in the weak and uncoordinated implementation by member states. For example, glass eels, or elvers, commend very high prices, making them an obvious target for smugglers.

In April, a smuggling ring in Spain was busted after smuggling an estimated €37 million ($44.2 million) worth of glass eels from Spain to China, with the authorities seizing 350 kilograms of glass eels. The SEG has recommended that the European Commission includes a fourth pillar for the evaluation, this being that data and intelligence should be collected and immediately shared by member states enforcement agencies and Europol.

The initial feedback period for the evaluation closed on 11 May, but a second consultation will be taking place sometime in October.

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