Proposal 18: Anguilla anguilla (European eel) | WWF
European eels © WWF
Proposal: 18
Proponent: Germany (on behalf of the EU Member States)
Summary of Proposal: Inclusion of the European eel Anguilla anguilla in Appendix II in accordance with Article II.2(a).

WWF position SUPPORT

For WWF's full position, including the rationale and further information, please see page 19 in WWF Positions CITES COP14. Download PDF (3.6 MB | 48 pages)

Why is WWF supporting this proposal?

  • Widespread declines in glass eel recruitment (e.g. an average 95–99% decline in glass eel collection from 1980–1999 in 19 rivers in 12 countries)
  • The International Council of the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Working Group on Eels 2006 concluded that the species has declined in most of its distribution and is outside safe biological limits
  • European eels have several life history characteristics which make them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation: long-lived, large body size, late sexual maturity, production of all offspring at one time, high mortality rates, and a trans-Atlantic migration route
  • There is significant international trade demand for this species, both for live glass eels (from Europe to Asia) and the highly valued meat of adults
  • TRAFFIC reports have shown that poaching and illegal trade are a concern for this species
  • Regulation of international trade is particularly necessary given declines that may be further exacerbated by other anthropogenic factors such as freshwater and coastal habitat loss, pollution, parasitism, climate change, ocean current change, and blocking of inland migration routes, and
  • An Appendix II listing will assist all eel range States by helping to ensure that all harvest and trade in European eels is well-managed, not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild, and legal.

European eel quick facts

Current status: Not evaluated 

Found in: European waters (marine and freshwater); adults migrate to the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean, near Bermuda, to breed

Interesting biology: Complex and unique life cycle with several stages of development (glass eels, elvers, yellow eels, and silver eels); the species is
semelparous (reproducing only once in their lifetime) and catadromous (spending most of their life in freshwater but going to the sea to breed)

Population status: Marked population declines in fished areas, with localized extirpations at the edges of its range. Other human impacts may have also contributed to the sharp decline in recruitment - including freshwater and coastal habitat loss, pollution, climate change, ocean current change, blocking of inland migration routes by dams, mortality in hydroelectric turbines, and transfers of parasites and diseases

Traded as: Meat; live glass eels for rearing in aquaculture; small yellow eels for stocking purposes

Caught in: Directed fisheries for all major life stages