Agriculture minister Carola Schouten has said she has no plans to ban eel fishing after scientists warned that the creatures were on the brink of extinction.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommended a ban in November because the population of glass eels in the North Sea has slumped to 0.6% of the level in 1980.
The council said pollution and destruction of the eels’ habitat were the main reasons for the decline.
Schouten has said in response to questions in parliament that she is opposed to an outright ban. ‘I will work towards implementing measures that strengthen and improve the eel population at a European level,’ she wrote.
Tammo Bult, director of Wageningen Marine Research and the Dutch delegate to ICES, said: ‘For us the biological question is whether the eel population level is healthy enough for fishing.
‘By any measure it is a worrying situation. You want to see a recovery and we’re not seeing that.’
Alex Koelewijn, chair of DUPAN, an organisation that advocates for sustainable eel fishing, said the eel population had been at a ‘low but stable’ level since the 1990s.
‘The eels’ habitat has changed. Polders have been built, swamps have drained and sluices and pumping stations have appeared. All of these are obstacles that didn’t exist before and that’s where the eel is under strain.’
Koelewijn said banning eel fishing risked driving it underground ‘because people won’t stop eating eels.’
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