Climbing Back up What Slippery Slope? the Dynamics of the European Eel Stock and Its Management in Historical Perspective

Monday, August 18, 2014: 2:30 PM
206B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Willem Dekker , Department of Aquatic Resources, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, Drottningholm, Sweden
Laurent Beaulaton , Pôle GEST'AQUA, ONEMA, Rennes, France
Few fish stocks are as influenced by (intentional and inadvertent) human impacts as the European eel, all across the continent. The dynamics of our stock, however, are poorly understood - neither the causes of the historically low abundance, nor minimal protection levels are beyond discussion. Rather than analyzing contemporary processes, this paper turns back in time - two centuries - unraveling time series and distribution patterns; reviewing historical actions and objectives; and discussing technical developments and scientific advice. Picturing the slippery slope the eel stock has come down, we evaluate hypotheses on the causes of stock decline and discuss the adequacy of protective actions (type and magnitude).

The first claim, that the continental stock was in decline, dates from the early 1800s; stock-enhancement actions were initiated shortly after. Diffuse objectives, technical innovations, eternal optimism and - above all - no quantification impede the evaluation of historical reports. After 1950, when quantification improved, a slow but consistent decline was observed. But it is only two decades after the crash in recruitment from the ocean (in 1980), that protection plans addressed the bad status of the stock. A slippery field, full of pitfalls - and yet, we now observe the first recovery?