The Dutch Sustainable Eel Sector foundation (DUPAN) wants to restock Dutch inland waters with glass eels to boost dwindling eel stocks. A nice gesture, says Professor Johan Verreth, Professor of Aquaculture and Fisheries, but success is not guaranteed.
It's hard to say if this will have any effect. If it's true that twelve to twenty percent of these glass eels eventually make it to adulthood, as the foundation asserts, then that's quite a lot. Then there'd be a real chance of having more eels swimming around our inland waters in the not too distant future. That would provide scope for a small amount of fishing and breeding.
The eel situation in Europe has been deeply problematic for a long time. It's probably a combination of factors that has caused the dramatic decline of the eel population. We actually know very little about it. And it's really tough on the fishermen and breeders that the government tries to find solutions which harm their particular target group.
Hydro-electric power stations crush a huge number of fish too, and we might be able to do more about that than what we have tried so far. And what's happening in the sea? Last year there was a sudden spate of glass eels, about forty percent more than usual, entering France. We don't understand what caused that. But it's crystal clear that the decline of glass eels swimming inland from the sea is dramatic. We've got to do something about it.
If the sale of eels in the Netherlands were to come to a complete standstill it would be a tragic thing because a part of our culture would then vanish. The market may well be lost forever. That's why it's a good thing to maintain eel consumption on a limited scale.
The real solution to the problem is to propagate and breed eels in captivity. In this way you can look after and restore the wild eel population. The domesticated animals can then be used for consumption.'