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Inspections can mean life or death for eels

For the first time in June 2012, France transmitted to the European commission the report on the measures taken and the expected results of the eel-management plan. This article presents the inspection work carried out by Onema.

In compliance with the European regulation, France adopted a national management plan addressing all causes of eel mortality in order to restock the species. In terms of fishing, the measures include capture quotas, a shortening of the fishing season for yellow eels, regulations governing the numbers of fishermen and a virtually total ban on fishing of silver eels. In addition, a tracing system now monitors eels from their capture to sale. To ensure compliance, an inspection strategy has been set up, to which Onema units contribute directly. The strategy covers organised poaching of glass eels, compliance with regulations on the part of commercial fisheries and the general public, and efforts against illegal sales circuits.

Efforts against poaching
In 2011, Onema ran 621 inspections, of which 277 revealed offences to regulations and resulted in either legal (citations) or administrative proceedings (letters stipulating the regulations). Onema carried out many of the inspections with other services, e.g. the National agency for hunting and wildlife (ONCFS), the Gendarmerie, the Maritime gendarmerie and the Competition and consumers department. Operations against poaching of glass eels were carried out on all French coasts, including the Atlantic (the Adour, Gironde, Charente and Loire estuaries in particular), the Channel and the North Sea. In the Mediterranean, where fishing of glass eels is banned, the main sites where poaching is likely were monitored.

Enhanced cooperation
In the Loire-Atlantique department, close collaboration has been established between Onema and the State prosecutor in the city of Nantes. A total of 17 poachers caught in 2010-2011 were judged together in November 2011 for 22 offences and sentenced, depending on their past history, to fines of between 500 and 5 000 euros. All their equipment and a vehicle were confiscated.

520 kilograms of live eels
Concerning fishing of yellow eels, during a joint inspection in June 2011 between Onema, ONCFS and the Seaside and Lake Conservation Trust, 520 kilograms of live eels were confiscated (and immediately returned to the water), as well as 17 large hoop nets, in the Mousterlin marshes (Finistère department). In August 2011, in the port of St-Malo, Onema and the Maritime gendarmerie succeeded in arresting two European citizens red-handed with 85 kilograms of yellow eels. Some 15 kg of live eels were immediately returned to the water, but the remainder, which had been frozen, was destroyed. The St-Malo court declared the two men guilty of the illegal possession and transport of eels and of fishing in an illegal zone. They were sentenced to one and two months of suspended prison terms and to fines of 1 000 and 3 000 euros respectively. In addition, all their equipment, including a vehicle, was confiscated.

Onema personnel also inspected water mills equipped with illegal fishing systems. In 2011, visits to 53 mills on tributaries to the Sèvre-Niortaise river resulted in dismantling of ten installations. In 2012, visits to 56 mills on the Boutonne river led to the removal of another six installations.

Contact: benedicte.valadou@onema.fr

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