THE National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives is urging both Defra and the Environment Agency to take urgent steps to protect diminishing eel stocks.

The European population of the freshwater eel, (Anguilla anguilla) is at an historically low level of approximately 1% of the 1980 level and numbers continue to decline with the result that the current fishery is unsustainable. In short unless immediate action is taken freshwater eels may soon be extinct.

Over the past 45 years various influences have had a direct impact on the eels life cycle, reducing the numbers which reproduce. These influences include, exploitation, climate change, an eel parasite, (Anguillicola Crassus), access along rivers and watercourses, and the accumulation of pesticides and trace metals.

In a letter to The Environment Agency, NAFAC gave it’s full support to measures proposed in the Agency’s recent paper entitled ‘Eel Conservation and Management’ while at the same time expressing some concern about the lack of additional funding available to carry out the proposals.

NAFAC is firmly of the opinion however that exploitation was the main cause of today’s problems, and, that in view of the eels critical status, a precautionary principle should be adopted, with the first action being to stop or dramatically reduce the export of elvers, currently amounting to some 10 tonnes/annum. (There are 3000 elvers /kilo and they currently sell for £500 per kilo.)

Speaking on behalf of NAFAC, Executive Chairman Terry Mansbridge said, ‘It would appear that once again ‘human greed’ is affecting the sustainability of our environment in a similar way to North Sea Haddock and Sand Eels, Scottish Cod, Irish Drift Nets, and Inshore Commercial Bass Fishing.

Eels play a vital role in the ecological food chain in this country and are one of the staple ingredients in the diets of otters, bitterns, both of which are BAP species, as well as cormorants and others. We have known about this decline in eel stocks for twenty years and we believe that action must be taken NOW before it is too late.’



The National Association of Fisheries and Angling Consultatives (NAFAC) is the national body for local angling and fisheries stakeholder groups who between them represent some 400,000 anglers and others interested in the well being of our fisheries.