Freshwater catches of eel have fallen by three times and coastal water catches by nearly eight times in 10 years, Statistics Estonia reported.
In 2010, 3.5 tons of eel were netted from the sea and 14.3 tons from lakes and rivers in Estonia. Markus Vetemaa, researcher at the Maritime Institute, cites several reasons, mainly unsustainable fishing practices and climate changes, for the scarcity of the snakelike fish, which is rated highly in its smoked and marinated versions as a local delicacy.
One of the likely reasons behind depletion of the eel stock is the changing speed and circulation patterns of the Gulf Stream, Vetemaa told Õhtuleht. Eels habitually hatch in the Sea of Sargasso in the northwest Atlantic, from where the current carries the baby fish to Europe. Because of the global climate changes, increasingly more eels end up in the south instead of Northern Europe.
Also, while 2 million juvenile eels were let into freshwater bodies in Estonia annually in the 1970s and 1980s, that figure now rarely exceeds 600,000, Vetemaa said.