Produced below is a article published in The SUNDY EXPRESS (Indian Express) dated 21 February 2010.
The Catch for dutch Fisherman
The North Atlantic eel ,a cult food , is disappearing, but time is running out for fishermen too.
By JOHN TAGLIABUE
Doede visser‘s eyes grow misty when he recalls eating eel as child .”only the children of fishermen know what its to have it when still warm, and the skin puts a tingling feeling on your lips said Visser 63. His very name in Dutch means fishermen ,which like other men in his family, is what his father was.
Visser went in to telecommunications, but two years ago , a group of eel fishermen who knew his father begged for his help. the North Atlantic eel, as much a cult as food in Netherlands, is disappearing, mainly the result of over fishing as fresh for elvers or baby eels open in Japan and China. Environmental groups are pressing the government to restrict eel fishing, and the country’s Inland eel fishermen, a disappearing breed like their catch , turned to visser to defend them.
The Government decided that ,beginning this year ,fishing for eel will be banned from September to November. “it’s a good start ,though we think it will be several years before the species is recovered” Said Clarisse Buma , spokswomen for the world wild life fund in the Netherlands. “In all stages of life .” she said ,the European eel is threatened.
But time is running out for the eel fishermen too. So Visser ,Chairmen of the federation of dutch Inland fishermen, is negotiating an alternative with the government. When Visser father fished a generation ago ,a 200 fisher men piled the canals and rivers of his native Friesland in the Dutch north now there are 17. “it is not a happy situation” he said.
Aart Van der Waal is certainly unhappy . A burly tattooed man who occasionally quates George Orwell and whose cell phone rings with satisfaction by the rolling stones, he leaves with his wife four children’s in a brick cottage outside this village along Hollands Diep , an eustary that flowes to the sea .Van der wall 40 ,the son of an insurance broker ,has fished for eels since his teens ,interrupting for a year to study law after which he returned to eels . Neither of his sons shows interest in his job . “They see their fathers cold hands and the trouble with the government” he said shaking his head. He fishes the delta of Rhine and Meuse rivers, where a century ago 100 eel fishermen dragged their nets, today there are four.
The eel commonly fished here spend most of there lives in fresh water, like the Dutch rivers and estuaries, adult eels migrate annually to the Sargasso sea in the Atlantic ocean to breed after which young eels known as glass eels, returns to Europe. But the number of glass eels entering the reveres has dropped to about 1 % of former levels, according to world wild life fund.
While the government had appropriated $ 960,000 for fishing business to compensate the loss, Van der waal is dismissive “we get money from the government , but it is half of what we earn,
Given the eel ‘s endangered state ,some Dutch Fisheries have begun farming eels ,while supermarket chains have stopped stocking it. Food companies have began replacing it. In Spain where glass eels are fished for exports to Asia , Faux eel meat is made of Alsakan Pollock; in Netherlands ,one big food whole seller ,Anova sea foods ,has developed a new fish ,a cross of two types of African catfish that is called the Claresse an invented name it has trade marked. that it sells as substitute for eels both smoked and fresh . The Claresse said Hendrik Colpaert, Anova’s marketing director is positioned as eel ,though not in presentation or flavor, the reaction from retailers has been very favorable.
Visser hopes to forge a 3 way alliance among eel fishermen, eel farmers and traders to negotiate an alternate plan with the government that would restore the wild eel population without a lengthy ban on fishing. Something had to be done to fix the dealing eel populations, he agrees ,yet oddly, despite the scarcity, the price of eel was not increasing. “The funny thing is they are selling now for less than four to five years ago’ he said.
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Some Comments :- we in India also face similar problems (not specifically for eels but in general for the fishes )due to over fishing by the commercial fishing trawlers who use dense fishing nets even the small baby fishes can not escape, each year the catches are declining, there is a strong need to educate these peoples for sensible fishing practices for the fishes and their own future generations. We also do have rules and regulations for ban on fishing from June to August in the monsoon season which is the breeding season. However the Rules apply to the 12 nautical miles i.e. The territorial waters of India ,These fishing Trawlers take advantage of the loop hole in the law and fish beyond this limit , however actually they fish within 5-8 nautical miles only. A day will come when we will lose all the fish if one catches the fishes during the breeding season and also in other season with the nets having very small openings.