The European eel is on the way to disappearing for good. The species is critically endangered, and there are strong scientific arguments for suspending all fishing. Despite this situation, Swedish eel fishery is allowed to continue. Analysis of the eel management plan by the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment identifies clear shortcomings. It is unlikely that Sweden will meet the target that has been set for silver eels capable of migrating back to the Sargasso Sea so that they can contribute to regeneration.
The recruitment of new annual cohorts of European eel has decreased over a long period, and today it represents only a few per cent of what it was 30 to 50 years ago. The eel is particularly sensitive to overfishing, as it becomes sexually mature at an advanced age, but there also other reasons for its decline. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has long warned of the consequences of the ongoing population decline, and since 1998 the Council has recommended that an eel management plan should be adopted at the European level. Since 2007, the European Commission has also required all eel-fishing Member States to develop a plan to reduce eel mortality caused by human activity. In Sweden, the Swedish Board of Fisheries has been tasked by the Government with taking responsibility for a national eel management plan.
Many measures are listed under the plan: prohibition of recreational fishing for eel, special professional fishing licences for eel, modified fishing times, closure of yellow eel fishing on the west coast and increased stockings of juvenile eels. There is also a declaration of intent by the Swedish Board of Fisheries together with six power companies to reduce mortality due to eels being sucked into the turbines of hydropower plants.
The analysis of the Swedish eel management plan by the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment identifies a number of shortcomings. Some of these are listed below:
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