Restocking glass eels
European Anguilla Anguilla restocking

Commitment to the eel

The Biology of the eel – an extraordinary life history

The European eel is a catadromous fish species, long lived (on average males 8-11 years, females 12-18 years in northern Europe but significantly shorter in the Mediterranean and North Africa) and the life cycle involves several metamorphic changes before the final adult spawning migration to the Sargasso Sea. Reproduction:, whilst still to be observed in the wild (indeed neither spawning adults nor eggs have ever been seen), is a singular event. The life cycle has still not been resolved and consequently critical and determining factors remain unproven.  However this is not a reason to abandon efforts to find easy and low cost solutions to some of the more obvious problems.

Eels often dominate the fish fauna in lower rivers and estuaries, where it represents a considerable component of the aquatic ecosystem, and constitutes a major part of the diet of many other fish and semi-aquatic predators such as otters, cormorants and herons.  There is also a coastal population that is largely unrecognised and undetermined.

Glass eels arrive along the coastal waters in winter in southern Europe to late spring in most northern regions.

Developing a Europe Wide Sustainable Fishery

For many decades we have been at the leading edge of Glass Eel Fishery management and innovation have pioneered many techniques to make our industry more complete and effective.  We recognise that sustainability is the key not only for the future of the glass eels fishery and the future of the European aquaculture industry (until it is possible to reproduce the eel in captivity).  It is therefore not surprising that we have been directing our resources and energies to promoting a sustainable fishery since 2006.  Carrying on as before, with the various European fishery and environmental practices can only lead to further eel loss and ultimately end the livelihoods of all those engaged in this historic European industry.  We have been working over the last five years to introduce and support effective, immediate and concerted action to introduce change.  Initially we reviewed our own practices at UK Glass Eels, compared them with others and then tested them against a yardstick for sustainable fishery management.  Initially under the Marine Stewardship Council and subsequently we have reviewed our operation and practices using Professor Callum Roberts “straight forward and common sense reforms” for the worlds fisheries.  These were modified under the direction of Dr Gascoigne from MacAllistair Eliot.  There has, in the last two years been further development of the sustainable fishing practice under the guidance of the Sustainable Eel Group.