Japanese eel may be designated an endangered species

Kyodo

A group of international scientists is considering designating the Japanese eel as a species at risk of extinction on its red list, according to sources.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or IUCN, will discuss the matter at a meeting to be held in Britain from July 1 to 5, the sources said Saturday.

While it does not bring about any legal binding force even if the species is listed on the world’s most authoritative red list, it would raise global awareness.

The Japanese eel, whose population is decreasing in East Asia, was designated as a species at risk of extinction on the Environment Ministry’s nonlegally binding red list of endangered freshwater and brackish water fishes in February.

At the July meeting, the experts will examine 19 kinds of eels, including the Japanese eel, and discuss whether to designate each of them as an endangered species.

According to documents prepared ahead of the meeting, catches of parent Japanese eels have declined by around 90 percent in Japan during the past 30 years, while their populations in Taiwan and the Philippines are also declining.

The documents note that the deterioration in river habitats and fishing are the greatest threats to the Japanese eel, prompting expectations it will be designated as an endangered species, although a lack of data on its habitats outside of Japan could stall the effort.

Currently, the European eel is listed at the top of the IUCN’s three-category endangered list as a species that is highly feared to become extinct in the near future, and is subject to trade control under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known as the Washington Convention.