“The numbers of the European eel have decreased by 90 to 95 percent since 1980,” revealed Kadri Alasi, chief specialist with the Nature Conservation Department of the Ministry of the Environment. “The biggest threat to the eel is that it is caught in massive numbers in European
waters while it is still in its early stage of development, when they are known as glass eels.”
Glass eels are highly prized in Asian countries, particularly China and Japan. They are also caught for fish farming purposes.
The decision to add the eel to the list of endangered species will not have any effect on eel fishing, but it will bring about changes in the way that eels are bought and sold. A permit will now be required from CITES for the export of live eels and eel products from the European Union. To obtain such a permit in Estonia, an application with a document evidencing the legal origins of the eels must be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment.
“In Estonia and within the EU there are no other restrictions on trade and transport of eels, but the people involved must have a document proving the origins of the eels that they can give to the relevant institution, such as a fishing permit or a fish farming certificate,” Alasi explained.
A change was also introduced at the conference which will have a bearing on lovers of caviar. Up till now, people have been able to bring 250 grams of black caviar into the country for personal use without requiring a special permit. But starting from 15 September, this amount will be reduced to 125 grams per person.
The 14th conference of CITES was attended by over 2000 representatives of national and environmental organisations. More than 60 documents related to the strategy and implementation of the convention were discussed, as well as 38 proposals for changes to the lists of species included in the convention.
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CITES is designed to protect endangered plant and animal species by regulating international transport of them for commercial and other purposes. Legal and illegal international trade in plant and animal species alike have increased significantly in recent decades, and the resulting problems are becoming more and more acute. Illegal trade in natural species has grown as large as the drug and weapons trade.