Expect the Unexpected

Every Glass Eel Season is Different.

2019 for us it has been an eventful year.
The season ended with David being attacked by a group of four hooded males and severely beaten by the wooden post (in the picture) until he handed over the keys to the safe. Fortunately for Bruce, the pilot, and I the train was 15 minutes late otherwise we would have been injured as well. We found David on the floor unable to stand. The robbers stole the fishermen’s payroll. This will be the end of cash payments to the fishermen.

It is very frustrating we know the identity of one of the members of the group. Unfortunately we do not have the evidence to link the crime with the suspect. For anybody bold enough to come forward the £10,000 reward is still open.

In the coming season there will be some challenges.

The sector is changing somewhat hastily. We have seen a rapid attrition of glass eel buyers in France this year. Some have just vanished to escape the law, others have been legitimately closed because of illegal activities and a few have found the market for the moment  just too challenging  to operate in.  It is a reflection of the difficulties that the sector faces with a EU production of nearly a 100 tonnes and a market for 30 tonnes. Only ourselves, Gurruchaga and Aguirrebarrena remain.

We now have all our French fishermen signed up to the SEG program. The actual benefit to the fishermen is proving to be a quite difficult to demonstrate. The loss of ISEAL accreditation and the Video relating to the Vilaine certification has been a significant set back. If the SEG program is to work it important that the fishermen that have signed up to SEG can see the benefit. This year already more than 50% of our SEG consumption quota has been sent to Spain for consumption. It is ten years since SEG was started and I wonder if it will really come to fruition during my lifetime.

The reports coming back from Hong Kong suggest this year only about 2000 kilos of glass eels have been exported this year. These illegal shipments were principally by suitcase, the large bulk shipments have ceased. We have SEG to thank for this, but the increased supply of glass eels creates new problems in the market place. There is the additional complication even if Europol’s estimations of an additional 60 tonnes of glass eels on the market are not correct it will be difficult to balance supply and demand. The idea that this will be compensated for by an increase in the overall demand for restocking is wishful thinking. Regulation alone cannot resolve the overall problem. There has to be some management and leadership direction from Brussels. It is somewhat unusual to have a critically endangered species where production exceeds demand.

At last we at least know that we leave Europe 1st February 2020. Very likely with a deal. However it is unclear how your colleagues in Brussels will punish us for leaving the EU. If everything goes to plan we will have a one year transitional period to negotiate and manage the change. While BREXIT was proposed as a new opportunity. It is with some irony that we find having started BREXIT we have seen the introduction of a new set of regulatory measures (the non detriment finding) that are more severe than we had previously in order to allow us to continue to trade with the EU.

Glass Eel Trade
Interesting to note that all roasted eel imports to Russia from China have been stopped this week. This was the principal market for A.anguilla. The suspense of exports was not due to CITES intervention. The problems stems from a Russian audit with reference to the chain of custody and certification. The exporting factory was a virtual asset and in reality did not exist. As a result there has been a dramatic fall in adult eel prices. (A.Rostrata, A.Anguilla. The price for A. japonica remains stable.) It is likely that the ban will remain in place until a proper chain of custody and origin of the eels can be established. Anguilla rostrata production is similar to last year. Most of supply coming from Haiti with smaller amounts from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Prices 6000/6500 USD per kg. There were fears this season that A.japonica would be in short supply this year. The price per piece at the start of the season was 40 rmb (25,000 euros per kg). The production is in fact now better than last year and the price per piece has dropped to 16 rmb (2 euros per piece).

Note: 1 kg Gold circa 40,000 euros.


Peter Wood.