Given the conservation and safety concerns, Oceans North supports the proposed closures of the elver fishery for the 2024 season.

“We recognize the difficulty of this decision, particularly when people’s income is affected,” says John Couture, Senior Fisheries Advisor. “However, given the high value of the fishery, the amount of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing taking place, and the challenges with monitoring and enforcement, stronger regulations and sustainability practices should be in place before re-opening.”

American eels have been assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and are awaiting a listing decision under the Species At Risk Act. Efforts have been made to better understand population dynamics, but eels are widespread and have complicated lifecycles. They are thought to breed in the Sargasso Sea, with juveniles (elvers) returning to freshwater ecosystems ranging from Greenland to the northern part of South America.

In order to help conserve them, Oceans North has recommended several measures under the Fisheries Act as well as tighter export controls and prohibition of cash sales. The European eel, for example, is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). While this mechanism allows harvest, it also ensures that exports are carefully tracked, with the goal of ensuring that trade does not further threaten the survival of the species.

“DFO needs to move quickly to improve monitoring and enforcement for future sustainable elver fishing, given the significant cultural and economic value of this species to Indigenous people and the authorized commercial licence holders,” says Couture. “They are an important income source, but unreported removals will lead to continued conservation and social concerns for Canadians. Any solution will have to involve stewardship and collaboration within communities, as well as better national—and potentially international—regulation.”

For more information, please contact:

Alex Tesar
Communications Manager
Oceans North
[email protected]

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