Eels Seven Thousand Leagues under the Sea Ethology

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The fishing tsunami

Installation of fish ladders on barriers, imposition of quotas accompanied by the obligation to allocate 60% of elver fishery outputs to repopulating rivers and to decrease the yellow- and silver-eel catches by 30%. “These measures caused a real fishing tsunami, says Philippe Boisneau, chairman of the eel fishermen’s association of the Loire River. Between 2009 and 2014, 200 freshwater and 600 marine fishermen disappeared from the statistics, because the price of elvers went from 800 euros per kilogram to 150 or even 50 euros at the end of the season. We observed the rules and met the objectives. But we were the only ones.” The fishermen’s leader points the finger at the dams, the chemical industry, and at amateur fishermen that are not regulated.

Except that, for last three years, the plan seems to have shown its first results. As for the elvers, it’s clear. In areas where fishermen needed a month and a half to reach their quota, this year, in the Adour Basin, they exceeded it in four nights. A significant increase in elvers was also found in the observation ladders. The fishing quotas were then increased slightly. “Pay attention, warns biologist Eric Feunteun, ten years ago, some predicted that the species would be extinct in 2020. Today, the same ones are crying out victory. I’m not sure that they are more clear-sighted now.” In his opinion, the improvement could be due to the change in the North Atlantic oscillation index, caused by the approach of temperatures between the North Pole and the Tropic of Cancer, which would push the larvae into the right direction. The latest trick played by the eel.

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