Relais & Châteaux Chefs Pledge to Stop Serving Endangered Eel

by Anthony Losanno
European Eel

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Relais & Châteaux is an association of individually owned and operated luxury hotels. It has around 580 members in 68 countries across five continents. I recently stayed at one of the properties in Luxembourg (more here). It also has a culinary council that guides the restaurants and hotels within the group. Today, it called on its culinary council to ban serving the European eel as it has been overfished to the point of being critically endangered.

The species is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Over the last 20 years, European scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) have been warning about how much the species has declined and recommend to stop fishing for these eels altogether.

The 21 Relais & Châteaux chefs elected to the Association’s World Culinary Council gathered in October and voted to ban European eel from its menus. The situation with these eels is troubling because the species suffers from numerous challenges including water pollution, habitat destruction, dams that impede their biological cycle, and illegal fishing. A black market has developed and these eels are now commanding up to €5,000 per kilo. Eels are the only fish that are targeted at their juvenile stage and it takes them a long time to reach reproductive maturity, which further makes their survival difficult.

Mauro Colagreco, Vice President, Chefs of Relais & Châteaux and Leader of the World Culinary Council, said:

Chefs have a critical role to play: we can stop the demand. We have a chance to protect eels from becoming extinct, and of preserving biodiversity to allow future generations to continue to enjoy them, but only if we act now. As the world’s largest network of chefs, Relais & Châteaux hopes to save this species.”

While it is urgent to suspend eel fishing today, it’s also crucial that public officials work to protect this endangered species from extinction.

Anthony’s Take: Endangered species should not be eaten. Their numbers need to increase through conservation and smart animal husbandry. I hope that enough can be done to save this species and others that are endangered.

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