Thursday, September 21, 2017

Eel association warns on overfishing risk

Eel prices have doubled in the past year and the increased catch could be putting species at risk, officials warned last week. Aye Zaw Myo / The Myanmar Times ArchiveEel prices have doubled in the past year and the increased catch could be putting species at risk, officials warned last week. Aye Zaw Myo / The Myanmar Times Archive

The country’s leading eel trading body is warning that several species are under threat from overfishing.

U Ba Thaw, chairman of the Myanmar Eel Entrepreneurs Association, said at the weekly Myanmar Fisheries Federation meeting on March 13 that high prices and strong demand from China this year had spurred reckless overfishing of wild eel.

“Eel fishermen have taken advantage of rising prices and demand by catching as much as they can, which will threaten the stocks next year,” he said.

U Ba Thaw said prices had risen by up to 100 percent year-on-year, increasing to US$5030 a tonne in March 2012 from $2500-3000 at the same time last year. He added that more trucks were being sent to border trading zones as a result. Exports in the 2010-11 fiscal year earned about $23 million but in the 2011-12 year to March 6 that had increased to $37 million, Department of Fisheries statistics showed.

“I don’t think eel stocks will last for even five more years if we keep fishing in this manner. There is absolutely no discipline at any stage in fishing, trading or exporting – and we’re selling off even the smallest eel,” he said.

However, exporters said the high prices on offer were only available for larger eel – those more than 3 feet long (1 metre) and weighing at least 160 grams – and they did not sell specimens smaller than a foot long (30 centimetres) and weighing less than 80 grams.

The general secretary of Myanmar Fisheries Federation, U Win Kyaing, said if fishermen and exporters continued to sell eel in such quantities, stocks could be wiped out within three or four years. He said the industry needed to put a higher price on conservation and tightly restrict the trading of small eel.

Most eels are caught in Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, he said.