Why wildlife officials aren't listing American eels as endangered

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said on Wednesday that despite ongoing harvesting, the dangers faced by eels do not meet the criteria to be listed.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP/File
Baby eels, known as elvers, swim in a plastic bag at a buyer's holding facility in Portland, Maine, May 19. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it has decided not to list American eels under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal officials on Wednesday declined for the second time to list American eels under the Endangered Species Act, saying the species' threats once again fail to meet the required criteria.

While the eel population suffered a significant decline in 1990s and 2000s, it appears to have stabilized since then, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.

An official statement acknowledged: “American eels still face local mortality from harvest and hydroelectric facilities.”

But “this is not threatening the overall species,” it said.

The agency, which has declined to list the eels once before in 2007, went on to praise the effects of harvest quotas and methods that have restored “eel passage around dams and other obstructions.”

Petitioners from the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy, & Reliability have said since 2010 that American eels are “in steep decline” across the country, from losing more than 80 percent of their habitat to being increasingly hunted by fisheries.

This week's decision brings a victory to fishermen who have been campaigning against greater protections for the eels, and who stand to benefit from up to thousands of dollars from each catch. As the Associated Press reports:

Maine baby eels were worth more than $2,100 per pound in 2015, up from less than $100 per pound in 2009. The baby eels, called elvers, are sold to Asian aquaculture companies that raise them to maturity and use them as food.

Classifying them as an endangered species would have put a severe dent in the global market, one that’s been increasingly reliant on the United States since a decline in the population of European eels in the 1990s.

Esquire reports that 70 percent of the world’s freshwater eel catch goes to Japan, where it is ubiquitously served and known as unagi.

“Despite habitat loss throughout their range,” Krishna Gifford, a listings coordinator for the wildlife service, told the AP, “we know the eels remain widely distributed through their historical range.”

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.