French will not sign up to eel conservation

Hi Readers

The 15th November marked the start of the French elver fishing season. My spies on the French river bank tell me fishing has got off to a slow start but significant quantities of elvers are already being traded. This leads us to conclude that a large portion of these fish are Spanish and Portuguese speaking elvers. Wink wink nudge nudge know what I mean.

It’s no surprise that the French are running rings round the European legislators. Last year CITIES (Convention on International Endangered Species) recommended a 14 ton quota limit on French elver exports. Campaign groups that track fish exports estimate France exported more than 20 tons to China alone. This year in Brussels the EU fisheries commission attempted to get EU members signed up to an agreement on export quotas to countries outside the EU. France’s lone refusal to sign up to any agreement means no quotas have been set, and this just as the elver season gets under way. ”Mon Dieu “ no surprises there.

Here in Britain we catch about 2% of Europe’s total elver catch, but our method of hand netting as opposed to France’s mechanised trawling, is in our view a sustainable method of fishing. Unfortunately the British elvers’ problem is getting out of the tidal river system and into fresh water to start feeding. There is already a widely accepted statistic that 99% of elvers die within the first 3 months of entering our rivers. By supporting the eel fish farming industry in Europe we need to couple this with a wild restocking programme.

We urge all our customers to follow our lead and change their menus to feature sustainable farmed eel from Europe. We no longer support the exploitation of wild adult eel for consumption and believe any eel taken from the wild is a threat to the adult eel population that will eventually migrate back to the Sargasso Sea. A 6 month ban on wild eel fishing in the UK from the 1st October means that in theory no wild eel should be available but we are aware that some “purveyors” of eels are still offering wild eel, so buyer beware.

As part of a restocking initiative we piloted a “tanks in schools” scheme last year. We installed tanks with about 300 elvers, in several local primary schools. The children were responsible for feeding the fish and the teachers were able to discuss a whole range of topics from conservation, migration, fishing, geography, food, farming, the opportunities were endless. When the elvers had grown to what we call the fingerlings we organised a release back into the wild. This exercise, to teach the elver to start feeding and growing, means its survival chances are increased by a factor of 5. Next year we plan to introduce the tank scheme into some London schools so we can start a release programme into tributaries of the River Thames with the possible involvement of some our London customers. Anyone interested in more info or would like to get involved do not hesitate to give me a call.

It’s official the River Wye has been voted Britain’s favourite river by the “our rivers campaign.” Anne Miekle of the WWF said,” it is a stunning river which captures the imagination of everyone who visits it.” The lower reaches of the Wye Valley have been designated areas of outstanding natural beauty. Famous for its salmon fishing it’s also home to a population of shad, one of the UK’s rarest species of fish which run 120 miles up to Builth Wells to spawn. It’s also worth mentioning that on the last day of the Salmon fishing season this year 17 fresh run salmon were caught on the Wye’s Brigsweir beat. On the same day a 38lb salmon was caught on the nearby river Usk, which was the largest salmon caught on the Usk river for 70 years. We all hope these are positive signs of a recovery in salmon numbers.

Anyone interested in hampers or home deliveries of smoked salmon don’t leave things till the last minute pick up the phone and give us a call, or alternatively call in, visitors always welcome.

More news soon.
Dai Francis