Sweden proposes three-month eel ban
EU fisheries ministers have decided on new rules in 2018 to protect the threatened eel. The rules prohibit commercial fishing for eels in the sea for an continuous period of three months, to be set between 1st September 2018 and 31st January 2019.
The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM), is responsible for implementing the EU decision in Sweden.
â€˜We propose that the ban for fishing for eels in Swedish coastal areas be introduced between 1st November 2018 and 31st January 2019. The proposal will now be announced and we hope to make a decision in May,â€™ said Ingemar Berglund, at SwAM.
These rules apply to all EU waters in the North-East Atlantic, including the Baltic Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegatt and the North Sea. The prohibition does not cover fishing for eels under than 12 centimeters, fishing for eels in the Mediterranean or recreational fishing for eels.
â€˜Sweden has previously introduced extensive fisheries regulations to reduce fishing and strengthen the protection of the eel in various ways,â€™ Ingemar Berglund said.
In 2007, a general ban on eel fishing in Sweden was introduced, with a requirement to return accidental catches to the water. Exceptions to the fishing ban include professional fishing, with particular support for angling and fishing in certain inland waters, where the eels can not travel migrate to the coast due to downstream power stations. On the west coast, fishing has been stopped and no new fishing for eels is allowed.
Swedish management has led to an approximately 80% reduction in eel fisheries since 2007 in areas covered by the proposed eel fishing ban, ie Swedish coastal areas.
The drop has been from an average of 785 tonnes per year (2004-2006) to an average of 158 tonnes per year (2015-2017). Today, eels are fished in Swedish coastal areas from May to December, and the main fishing activity takes place in Kalmar, Blekinge and SkÃ¥ne.
â€˜When selecting a period for a fishing ban in 2018, we have taken into account the impact on Swedish fishing in relation to the expected impact on the entire stock. Based on previous years' catches, we estimate that a fishing ban from November to January will reduce the Swedish coastal fishery for eel by another 22%, which corresponds to approximately 35 tonnes,â€™ he said.
â€˜The ban mainly affects fishermen in Ã–resund and parts of SkÃ¥ne because they have their main eel fishery then. At the same time, it is the period that gives the least impact on the Swedish commercial eel fishing.â€™
For 2017, a total catch of 2580 tonnes was reported to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) from different countries throughout the eel distribution area. Compared to the total reported catch, the Swedish ban is expected to reduce total fishing by 1.5 to 3.5%, depending on when the three month ban is introduced in Sweden.
â€˜Our assessment is that the measure will have very little effect on the stock as a whole and its ability to recover, regardless of when the period is introduced in Sweden,â€™ Ingemar Berglund said.
In 2007, the EU adopted a regulation to protect and boost the European eel stock. Each member state should also have an eel management plan and an evaluation of progress has to be completed by June this year.
â€˜If the evaluation shows that we should take more action, we will do that. Such measures should then be designed to contribute to the long-term recovery of the stock,â€™ Ingemar Berglund said.
SwAM's proposal for a three-month ban on eel fishing in Swedish waters is now being referred to fisheries organisations, county administrations, and various authorities and associations.
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