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The Impact of CITES

The European Commission has proposed restrictions on international trade of the European eel, but recognised the need to fully respect the EC’s obligations to the WTO. This has been managed by invoking the assistance of CITES. The eel was approved for inclusion on Appendix II of CITES but this will not come into effect until the 13th March 2009; the species will then also be listed on Annex B of the EC CITES Regulations. .

Under the EC CITES regulations, trade can continue unrestricted within the European Community. However, if trade is to take place outside the community (as imports or (re)exports) then appropriate permits will be required.  Such permits cannot be issued unless a scientific authority of the country concerned has indicated that such an export will not be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of the species. This is known as a ‘non detriment finding’. It is therefore possible that the import of European eel back into Europe from Asia could be restricted and this will help to stabilise the European  price for eel. Currently some 4000 tonnes of eel is imported from Asia.

Within a working group of the EU scientific committee for CITES there was a majority view that at least for the moment that exports of eels  should not be permitted as a non-detriment finding cannot be made.

The French Government is under tremendous pressure from the larger glass eel producers to allow the glass eel trade to continue to Asia.

No agreement on this matter could be reached within the EC CITES Scientific Review Group in September and the decision has been deferred to December.

In any event these rules will not be implemented until after the coming French Season.

Will this be another example of French national interests taking precedence over European interests? The next few years are going to be very challenging for glass eel producers. However if we are to have a sustainable eel fishery and a sustainable aquaculture industry the exports of glass eels at the current levels  to Asia are simply not sustainable.