MCS is 'plain wrong' over eels, says Peter Wood
May 03 2012 Lewis Smith
Glass eels in tank
Peter Wood is the owner and manager of Glass Eels Ltd, a company that has caught and sold glass eels since the 1970s. He helped the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) create the Sustainable Eel Standard, only to find the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and Fish2fork refusing to endorse it as a justification for catching and eating the fish. Here he challenges the science and argues that the standard will achieve more than advice to keep eel off the menu.
There is no doubt that the issues surrounding the eel have become politicised and the role of scientists in this debate has for some, I believe, become vocational rather than evidence-based.
The whole process should be based on evidentiary facts and majority rule but the eel debate has been limited to a very small nucleus of scientists and in many cases so-called statements of facts are no more than opinions and are not supported by evidence.
In particular, there is statement by the IUCN that the eel is critically endangered - a similar classification to the Giant Panda - and is facing an extremely high risk of extinction.
To me, this is patently not the case. While there are perhaps less than 2000 Pandas surviving in a very localised environment the eel is a species whose numbers can be measured in millions if not billions and is randomly distributed in a whole range of environments all over Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and beyond.
One would expect that the scientific integrity of the IUCN Red List depends on assessment processes being appropriately documented and supported by the best scientific information available. So I think people would be surprised that the classification of the eel by IUCN was made just using two assessors and two reviewers. This is not scientific consensus.
The original review in 2009 is quite narrow, references are sparse and there are important errors, omissions and contradictions in the IUCN document that devalue the classification. Among the mistakes I believe the review made was treating FAO landings data as a reliable indicator of eel stocks, and failing to recognise that glass eel recruitment has increased for the last three years. Furthermore, the claims that glass eel recruitment are at historic lows are not justified or supported by the pre-1980’s data.
While MCS may not agree with the sustainable eel standard - despite it being put together with input from ICES scientists - the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) which created it is extending the debate and quietly working to support the recovery of the eel. It is doing so with a wide range of stakeholders which include nature conservationists, government, non-government organisations and commercial stakeholders.
There are a whole range of factors that are putting pressure on the eel, but equally there are measures that can be taken that will make a real contribution to the recovery of the European eel. These include the restoration of wetland habitat and nursery areas, and the reinstatement of migratory pathways for glass eels and adult eels to overcome the numerous obstacles to migration.
Buying eel sourced from Sustainable Eel Standard suppliers gives the consumer the confidence that it has been fished, captured, transported and cultivated to a higher standard than is required under the European Union’s eel recovery plans.
We should not delude ourselves that the MCS and Fish2fork advice to avoid eating eel will help the recovery process. This approach is far too simplistic and will not contribute to the recovery of the eel. Stopping the consumption of eels is not going to have any beneficial impact on the eel population unless practical conservation measures are implemented to protect habitat and migratory pathways.
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1 Responses to "MCS is 'plain wrong' over eels, says Peter Wood"
Sorry Mate I completely disagree with your one sided report, I'm on the side of MCS & Fish2fork, there's more than 2 assessors and 2 reviewers concerned about the eel population, it must be protected, and what better way than simply stop catching it.
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