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Ministry of Agriculture: states must take effective new measures to protect critically endangered river eels

Sep 6, 2022

The Directors-General and representatives of fisheries of the European Union Member States and representatives of the European Commission (EC) discussed in Prague today how to halt the decline and restore the critically endangered river eel. The Czech Presidency aims to reopen the debate on the protection of this fish. The Czech Republic was represented at the meeting by Martin Žižka, Director for State Administration of Forests, Hunting and Fisheries, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In recent decades, river eel populations have declined to critical levels. The reasons for this are mainly the activities of hydroelectric power plants, impassable river networks, commercial sea fishing, illegal trade and negative impacts related to climate change. The EU is trying to reverse the decline, but despite national measures, the decline in eels has not been halted. That is why the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) wants to reopen the debate and agree on new measures under the Czech Presidency.

"Despite all the efforts of the European Union, the decline in the eel population is critical. In the Czech Republic, unfortunately, it is currently completely dependent on artificial restocking. We therefore want to set effective measures at the European level to mitigate the negative impact of human activity on watercourses, so that not only the eel population but also other species can be preserved," said Agriculture Minister Zdeněk Nekula (KDU-ČSL).

The Ministry of Agriculture is promoting the measures:

• Prohibition of commercial fishing and trade in eels in all stages of development, except for the larval stage.
• Ensuring safe migration of all fish species
• Establishing a system of compensation for corrective measures (e.g. shutting down hydro turbines during the eel spawning season, subsidising the purchase of electricity from hydroelectric power plants according to the fulfilment of environmental targets, etc.)
• Promoting science and research on the life cycle of eels

"The measures we are proposing will only be effective if they are adopted and enforced by the whole of Europe and by non-EU countries where the eel is found. I am pleased that we have reached agreement with our international colleagues on the measures. The eel is an important fish and needs to be properly protected," said Martin Žižka, Director of the Department of State Administration of Forests, Hunting and Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The MoA supports eel research, for example through the OP Fisheries. Many scientific studies have been produced with the support of the MoA, in particular the River Eel Management Plan. The outcome of today's meeting and the topic of river eels will be discussed by the EU Agriculture Ministers during the Czech Presidency at future meetings.

The informal meeting of Directors-General and Fisheries Attachés took place from 31 August to 2 September. The participants visited the centre of Czech fisheries - South Bohemia, the Faculty of Fisheries and Water Conservation of the University of South Bohemia and the Secondary School of Fisheries and the Higher Vocational School of Aquatic Management and Ecology. The aim was to introduce Czech freshwater aquaculture and to highlight the critical situation of the river eel population.

Vojtěch Bílý
Spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture