U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Partners Collaborate on Conservation and Sustainable Trade of American Eels

An American eel. Photo by Erickson Smith / Creative Commons

An American eel. Credit: Erickson Smith / Creative Commons

The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is found throughout the Northwest Atlantic, south along the Atlantic coast of North America, into the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Caribbean, as far south as the northern coast of South America. International trade in Anguilla species has existed for decades and includes products related to aquaculture, food, and leather goods. Harvest of the eels for international trade and domestic use has reduced some species to the point where they are now listed by IUCN as threatened and endangered. 

From April 4th-6th, 2018, representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and about 50 other participants from nine other range States of the American eel, came together to discuss the status, conservation, and management of the highly migratory American eel. The three-day workshop was convened by the Sargasso Sea Commission, hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, and supported by the Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to respond to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Decision 17.187. The purpose of the workshop was to exchange information on science, management, trade and enforcement topics, while also fostering regional collaboration opportunities.

Participants at the American eel conservation and sustainable trade CITES Workshop. Credit: Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic

Workshop participants included representatives from ten countries. Credit: Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic

Participating range states included the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the United States.  Workshop attendees discussed how to fill information gaps and ensure long-term sustainability in the face of increasing demand for all eel species, particularly their highly valuable glass eel life stage for international trade. Key outcomes include a Workshop Report with recommendations to the CITES Animals Committee (meeting in July 2018) to be submitted by the United States, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Dominican Republic took the opportunity to announce its decision to sign on to the Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea as the 10th Signatory to that MOU. The Hamilton Declaration is a non-binding political statement signed by governments that are either located in the broader Sargasso Sea area or have an interest in conservation of the high seas.  

For more information about the eel workshop, including the meeting documents, please follow this link.