Norwegian fisheries regulators in a landmark decision have banned all fishing of the critically endangered European eel starting in 2010 and cut 2009 catch quotas by 80 percent.
The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries also has announced that all recreational fishing of European eels would stop on July 1st, as stock of the eels hit historically low levels and continue to decline. The decision represents a major conservation decision that is a model for proper fisheries management, according to WWF-Norway.
'The Minister of Fisheries is making an important, and the only right choice, and is showing international leadership in fisheries management,' said Rasmus Hansson, WWF-Norway CEO. 'Norway's Fisheries Minister, Helga Pedersen, has used every occasion to point out that Norway is the best in the world on fisheries management, and by making bold moves like this they have probably earned the title.'
The European eel is listed as critically endangered in Norway and on the IUCN Redlist. Stocks are at historically low levels with spawning levels at between one and five percent from their 1970 level, with only the Atlantic area seeing higher levels. In the Baltic Sea, including Kattegat and Skagerrak, indices show a sharp decline in young yellow eel stocks since 1950.
As early as 1999, The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) stated that the eel stock was outside safe biological limits, and that the fishery was unsustainable. Yet, fishing has been ongoing for decades, despite scientific advice.
'A total fishing ban is the strongest measure the fisheries management can use, and when a species is critically endangered one must use the strongest and most efficient measures. This protection should have been implemented many years ago, and we are hoping that the long-overdue protection is not too late,' Hansson said.
A successful rebuilding strategy for the eel, both in Norway and the EU, will have a substantial impact on eel numbers in Norwegian waters. Consequently, Norway has a great responsibility in influencing both the management and the research that is being undertaken in Europe. In Europe, fishing for eel continues, despite the very severe and depleted state of the stock.
'WWF urges Ms Pedersen to fight for the EU taking similar bold measures in their fisheries management, and WWF will fight to stop the eel fishery in the EU,' Hansson said.