The European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) is an incredibly important, but often under-valued fish species in the Atlantic Area. It is essential to the economic viability of many small-scale coastal fishing communities in Europe as well forming part of the traditional fishing economy in the UK.
The eel, like the salmon, lives alternately in freshwater and seawater, but unlike the salmon, the eel spends its adult life (yellow eel stage) in freshwater then swims down river where it is thought to migrate out to the Sargasso Sea to breed (silver eel stage). This mass spawning produces vast numbers of larvae, which drift/swim with the ocean currents across the Atlantic. These larvae eventually reach the European coastline where they metamorphose and move up into rivers during the spring (elver stage).
Recently a massive decline in the number of eels arriving at European Rivers has been noted. ICES/EIFAC working groups recently defined eel populations as 'outside safe biological limits' with critical levels reached mainly in Northern Europe.