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mfs1
18-03-2009, 11:06
As there seems to be an eel related post on most forums now, as spring takes hold, I felt that it was time to make a plea for the welfare of the eel. There have been many informed and sensible posts made over the last few days relating to the eel and its future, but there have also been many opinions expressed that will not help the species survive.

It is generally accepted amongst scientists, environmental organisations and bodies such as the EA that european eel stocks are close to, or may be at, a level that is biologically unsustainable. The Eel Management Plans that are now in place across the EU are intended to address this, but it may be too little, too late. In this circumstance, we (the National Anguilla Club) feel that to take even a single eel is morally incorrect, does not aid the survival of the species, and sends the wrong sort of message. Eels are arguably one of the finest eating fish but that is not a good reason for killing a fish that is in a precarious position. Bear in mind, too, that the eel cannot be bred in captivity. The whole stock relies on successful spawning in the Sargasso. We cannot make up any shortfall. As for taking the odd eel from stillwaters making no difference, we should remember that, once they have reached sexual maturity, eels will return to the sea to spawn at any size or age, if conditions are correct, and they are given the opportunity. So that odd one taken could be, or grow into, a big female that will produce huge quantities of spawn, and it might just tip the balance. The loss of one species from the system would be disastrous, and will impact on many other species, particularly as the eel is a keystone species. A keystone species is one which is disproportionately important to the maintenance of community integrity and following whose extinction major ecological changes would ensue.

Buying a tub of jellied eels or a pack of eel sections for bait doesn't help either, because we feed the commercial operation, which operates on a supply and demand basis.

Commercial eel fishing is only one of the threats facing the eel: climate change, pollution, barriers on rivers, predation, pollutants, disease-you name it, the eel is affected by it. I implore all thinking anglers not to add to the list.

So the plea is: Put all eels back, and do not buy them to eat or use as bait. If you catch an eel by accident or design, always put it back, even if you cannot remove the hook. They do survive, and have a remarkable ability to shed hooks. If you are fishing for them deliberately, strike at the earliest opportunity. For more info, see: www.nationalanguillaclub.co.uk

Mark Salt

General Secretary, National Anguilla Club