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AS REPORTED in Angler’s Mail magazine (cover-dated January 10, 2012), eel specialists are outraged by a controversial editorial in another publication.

The other title’s editorial about the endangered species suggested: “Some things evolve and some things become extinct, that’s just a fact of life. We can possibly help to improve future eel stocks, but do we need to? Why not let nature take its course, which may see that parasite evolve and the eel become extinct? Why spend money in this day and age on something that may only help a few anglers? Future generations just may not have the eel to catch so they will have to focus on another species. Just like we watch meerkats at the zoo instead of panda’s……”

Mark Salt has been explaining why eels really matter.

Mark Salt of the National Anguilla Club was most vocal in his attack on what he viewed as an irresponsible and very limited comment, ignoring the importance of the eel in our waters.

In a response to various angling media, including Angler’s Mail, Mark wrote about the species’ significance…

“On behalf of the National Anguilla Club, I will be contacting the magazine and the journalist involved, and ask for a retraction in the next issue, and an attempt at an intelligent analysis of the eel’s situation.

The eel is a “Keystone” species, which means that: “It has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Such species play a critical role in maintaining the structure of ecology, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community”.

Consequently, apart from the fact that some of us like to fish for them, eels are critical to the health of our waters and fish stocks. An example of this is the theory that otters are turning to alternative food sources in areas where eels are no longer plentiful. As for some waters having good stocks of mature eel, then that is most certainly true, Equally, however, there are many waters where eels were once commonplace that are now sparsely stocked. The complicated and extended lifecycle of the eel and the threats facing it mean that we will not see a real decline in mature eel numbers in some areas for a few years yet.

The Anguillicola crassus parasite is only one of many factors affecting eels stocks: commercial fishing, barriers in rivers, predation, pollution and loss of wetlands being but a few.

The EA and conservation organisations are making inroads into the barriers and obstruction issues facing both migrating eels and returning elvers, and that will have an impact. Sadly, all attempts at limiting eel exploitation have had little effect.

What we would like to see, however, is the angling publications supporting the effort to conserve the eel, and not encouraging a “let them go extinct” attitude.”