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Norway Bans Fishing of European Eel

Norway’s fisheries regulators have cut the 2009 catch quota for the endangered European eel by 80 percent and banned fishing of the eel completely starting next year, WWF announced today.


Will the endangered European eel be able to slip through the net of extinction, thanks to Norway’s ban on catching it?

Photo copyright WWF-Canon/Rudolf Svensen.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs also announced that all recreational fishing of European eels would stop tomorrow, July 1, as stock of the eels hit historically low levels and continue to decline. “The decision represents a major conservation decision that is a model for proper fisheries management,” WWF-Norway said.

“This protection should have been implemented many years ago, and we are hoping that the long-overdue protection is not too late.”

“A total fishing ban is the strongest measure the fisheries management can use, and when a species is critically endangered one must use the strongest and most efficient measures. This protection should have been implemented many years ago, and we are hoping that the long-overdue protection is not too late,” said Norway-WWF CEO Rasmus Hansson.


“The Minister of Fisheries is making an important, and the only right choice, and is showing international leadership in fisheries management,” Hansson said. “Norway’s Fisheries Minister, Helga Pedersen, has used every occasion to point out that Norway is the best in the world on fisheries management, and by making bold moves like this they have probably earned the title.”

The European eel is listed as critically endangered in Norway and on the IUCN Redlist. Stocks are at historically low levels with spawning levels at between one and five percent from their 1970 level, with only the Atlantic area seeing higher levels. In the Baltic Sea, including Kattegat and Skagerrak, indices show a sharp decline in young yellow eel stocks since 1950.

European Eels Video

Staff from Slapton Ley Field Centre & National Nature Reserve in the UK check the elver traps to see how many ‘glass’ eels have survived the two-year migration across the Atlantic from the Sargasso Sea.

As early as 1999, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) stated that the eel stock was outside safe biological limits, and that the fishery was unsustainable. Yet, fishing has been ongoing for decades, despite scientific advice, WWF said in a statement.

“A successful rebuilding strategy for the eel, both in Norway and the EU, will have a substantial impact on eel numbers in Norwegian waters.

“Consequently, Norway has a great responsibility in influencing both the management and the research that is being undertaken in Europe. In Europe, fishing for eel continues, despite the very severe and depleted state of the stock,” the statement added.

“WWF urges Ms Pedersen to fight for the EU taking similar bold measures in their fisheries management, and WWF will fight to stop the eel fishery in the EU,” Hansson said.

Related National Geographic News stories:

Europe’s Eels Are Slipping Away, Scientists Warn

One in Three European Freshwater Fish Face Extinction

Additional information:

Eel stocks dangerously close to collapse (ICES)

European Eel (USGS)


  1. Robert Jones
    September 18, 2013, 10:27 am

    I feel most of the damage to Eel stock has been the constant fishing for Elvers by Seine netting with much of the baby Eels being Exported to the Far East once this stops I’m sure the population will increase once again. But Commercial interest usually override most efforts to safeguard wild life.
    Bob J.

  2. Frank Wooldridge
    June 2, 2011, 6:54 am

    As a fisherman myself,and observed the decline of eel”s in various rivers that i have fished over the year”s, i too hope that the ban is not to late,agreed it should have been inplace many years ago.