March 20, 2022: The aquatic animal is already facing survival risks from several sources of threat. Continue reading to know more!
Here goes an interesting story: Eels, as delicacies, were only developed as an exclusive meal by five of the world’s top chefs in exchange for actor Robert De Niro promoting an international gastronomy summit - the Madrid Fusion.
Although the initiative gained quick popularity, the inclusion of eels extensively in the menus, which already served as a traditional meal in several parts of Europe, drew much flak from environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts.
Europe’s continued desire to harness eels as a traditional delicacy is incongruous with their endangered status, since their population has dropped by 95% since the 1980s.
Miguel Clavero Pineda, a senior scientist at Spain’s National Research Council exclaimed that he was ‘surprised’. “It’s like there is no awareness that this is a species on the brink of extinction. No restaurant would ever think of including Iberian lynx on its menu. But we’re eating eels.” he added. [Source: The Guardian]
There was a time when eels were flourishing abundantly in rivers, streams and lakes across the continent, which could sustain the European desire of eel consumption. Smoked eel is still a popular snack at Dutch fairs, is paired with scrambled eggs in Denmark, is a fried Christmas treat in Italy, and served with sautéed olive oil, garlic, and chilli pepper in Spain.
The European aquaculture firms yield around 5,500 tonnes of eel annually to stay at par with the European market. More than 1,000 tonnes are uncontrollably caught in the wild each year. Stuffed into suitcases, luggage, clothing apparels and bags, an estimated 100 tonnes of baby eel is smuggled out of the European Union each year.
Since aquaculture operations are widely unsure sometimes of an eel’s life cycle, they rely upon capturing solely juvenile eels, according to Margreet van Vilsteren, one of the founders of Netherlands-based Good Fish.
Scientists, on the other hand, have already raised a counter-propaganda when it comes to this culture, that states something very simple: a ban on the catching of baby eels. European politicians and other controlling bodies have continued to ignore these advances and still allow small amounts of baby eel hunting, every year.
Other than uncontrolled fishing, the establishment of dams, locks and hydroelectric power stations along waterways have also interfered with the eels’ habitat, slowly adding on to the damage seemingly created by climate change, parasites and pollutants. The quickest way to reverse this damage is to completely ban eel-fishing, for delicacy, tradition or otherwise.
Andrew Kerr, chairman, the Sustainable Eel Group, stated, “If we stop eating it, that really would mark the end of the relationship. It will literally just be a snake-like creature of mystery and darkness.” [Source: The Guardian]
Clavero Pineda believes that overexploitation is driven further by their dropping numbers. The fewer eels there are, the higher the price. It is an extinction loop fueled by illegal anthropogenic activities, where an endangered species can become very prized, developing a market where they are bought and sold rampantly.
“We can ban fishing and hopefully the time will come when eel will once again be abundant,” he said. “Or we can just keep taking eels out of the water until there aren’t any more.”