European Eel - Anguilla anguilla
Status: Critically Endangered … The first three years of the European eel’s life are spent drifting in the ocean as larva
Location: From North Atlantic ocean to Europe.
Size: Can reach 1.5m long, but normally between 60cm (2ft) and 1m (3ft 3in).
Habitat: Open ocean into rivers.
European eels are not farmed like some other species, instead the process involves catching juvenile eels (elvers) from the wild and growing them in captivity. This form of aquaculture is called ranching. Eel ranching contributes to the depletion of endangered wild stocks and does not provide a farmed alternative to reduce pressure on wild stocks.
This eel used to be one of Europe’s most familiar fish, but now their population is in decline and in some places they have disappeared completely.
No one really knows why a creature which was once so common is now becoming so rare. It may be because of its extraordinary reproductive cycle, with adults spawning on the far side of the Atlantic. European eels start and end their life in the ocean, but spend most of their lives in fresh water. They return to the ocean to spawn, and then die. The Sargasso Sea (in the North Atlantic ocean) is considered to be the most likely spawning ground for European eels - and the distance between the Sargasso Sea breeding sites and the UK is 7,000km!
Did you know?
- The species arrives in the UK as young eels, (elvers), in the spring.
- Elvers are so transparent that you can read a newspaper through them!
- Five of the 27 newly designated Marine Conservation Zones in English waters have been established to protect European eels and their habitats.
What MCS is doing:
- Working with the fishing industry, government, chefs and restaurants, consumers and retailers to promote sustainable seafood;
- Advising consumers to avoid eating European eels (farmed and wild caught) through Fishonline and the Pocket Good Fish Guide;
- Campaigning for more marine conservation zones (MCZs) to protect eels and their habitats from damaging activities.