Japan: Eel Protection

Japan: Eel Protection

Japan agreed in September 2014 to cut purchases of eel fry from neighboring East Asian countries by 20 percent in an effort to protect the endangered species.

The agriculture ministry said the agreement with China, South Korea and Taiwan calls for reducing eel hauls by 20 percent for one year, beginning in November 2014. The countries also agreed to take other measures to save the species and limit eel catches, including setting up an organization to coordinate management of the industry.

The Japanese eel is a popular summertime delicacy, served roasted with a sweet and savory sauce over rice. Conservationists put it on an international “red list” earlier in 2014, indicating the eel faces a high risk of extinction due to overfishing.

Efforts to farm eels have made slow progress due to their complicated migratory patterns. Unlike salmon, which migrate inland to spawn but spend their lives at sea, eels are spawned in remote areas of the ocean and then migrate inland, only returning to the sea to reproduce. Japanese eel farmers buy most of the elvers they raise from the three other countries involved in the talks.  The Associated Press