Germany:  Closed season set in North Sea fishery to protect eels

by Eurofish
smoked eels

The German government has announced a closed season for eels in its North Sea waters, from 1 September 2024 to 28 February 2025. This coincides closely with an EU-wide seasonal closure for eel fishing in the Baltic Sea from 15 September 2024 to 15 March 2025. Both restrictions exclude the late summer period of eel migration, a key time for harvesting activity. There is only one stock, or population, of eel in all of Europe. Despite being perilously close to extinction for many years, as judged by the world’s main organizations that monitor the state of natural resources, European eel continues to be legally fished in the EU, albeit with some restrictions that have proven to be ineffective in allowing eel resource recovery, according to ICES, whose scientific recommendations are supposed to form the basis of EU fishery regulations.


Eels are notoriously difficult to raise in aquaculture operations, so the wild fishery remains the principal source of eels. Despite the vanishing numbers of wild eels, fishing is allowed by governments to continue because the eel fishery remains economically important in many rural regions. It is primarily a small-scale sector, supporting many in harvesting, processing, and marketing to a large base of consumers throughout Europe. There is no legal recreational fishing for eels in the EU. “Given the dramatically low population, it is high time to act,” said Claudia Müller, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture. “The closed season helps the eels that are ready to spawn to make the long migration to their spawning area in the Atlantic, the Sargasso Sea east of Florida. The protection of the eel is also important because of its socio-economic importance: eel fishing secures incomes in many places in Germany. Giving eel stocks a perspective also means securing the livelihoods of people on the coasts and in rural areas in the long term.” Whether Germany’s action will materially contribute to eel protection depends on other member states copying and enforcing it.

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