WMU Hosts Second Meeting of Range States for the European Eel

From 15-16 May, the World Maritime University hosted the Second Meeting of Range States for the European Eel. The workshop was co-organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Secretariat and the Sargasso Sea Commission. The purpose of the workshop was to identify and prioritize the gaps in conservation and management efforts and chart a way forward.

Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU, welcomed the group stating, “WMU is pleased to host this important meeting on the European Eel, particularly following the recent inauguration of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute that will serve as a convergence platform in contributing to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 that is focused on the ocean. The ocean is the common heritage of mankind and we have a responsibility to ensure its protection and sustainable use which includes all forms of life within it.”

Recognizing the need to include all Range States and destination countries, the group identified areas that are imperatives for international cooperation. The meeting considered information on activities taking place related to the assessment, conservation and management of the European Eel, within and beyond the EU. Discussions following presentations from experts, country representatives, IGOs and NGOs involved in eel conservation identified certain gaps and opportunities as well as advantages to having stronger international cooperation for the conservation of European Eels. The meeting highlighted the necessity of taking into account all threats affecting eels throughout their life cycle and throughout their range, including the High Seas.

Professor David Freestone, Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission declared the workshop a success with more than 50 participants from more than 22 Range states as well as representatives from all the relevant international organizations. He stated, “The Workshop decided that the threats to the species - which is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List - were sufficiently serious for it to recommend the development of a new instrument under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) - perhaps an MOU or a treaty. This CMS instrument would envisage a major coordinating role for the CMS Parties in the conservation and management of the European Eel and it was specifically recommended that active measures should be included for the protection of the eel spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. This is a great step forward for us and I am sure that it was the wonderful surroundings and warm hospitality which had a major influence on the outcome.”

According to CMS, the European Eel has a wide geographic range from Northern Norway to North Africa and the Mediterranean. Mature fish migrate thousands of miles to the Sargasso Sea, south of Bermuda to spawn. There is significant concern regarding the status of Anguilla anguilla, due to a decline in recruitment, population and escapement of the species over the past four decades.

The species is already listed as "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN Red List and is on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In addition, European Union legislation was adopted in 2007 to ensure all Member States would develop Eel Management Plans. In 2014, as proposed by the Government of Monaco, the species was listed in the CMS Appendix II as "having a conservation status which would significantly benefit from international co-operation".

A first meeting of Range States and European and American Eel experts was convened in October 2016 in Galway, Ireland. In 2017, COP12 adopted a Concerted Action for the species, which envisaged a number of future actions, such as the meeting hosted at WMU this year. The meetings provide a unique opportunity for the Range States to come together and take stock of eel conservation and management measures, and discuss options for a possible new instrument to protect the species.

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