Royal Danish Fish has one of the world's largest and most responsible onshore aquaculture facilities for raising eels. The breedng facility is the first in the world that has been approved and certified according to the International Sustainable Eel Standard, which has the strictest certification requirements in the entire fishing industry.
One of the world’s largest onshore aquaculture facilities for raising eels is located in northwestern Denmark. The Danish company, Royal Danish Fish, has farmed eels since 1984. By 2011, its sales of eels to the Danish and international markets amounted to 875 tons.
The aquaculture facility is not only one of the world's largest, it is also the most responsible. Royal Danish Fish is the first and only producer in the world to be approved and certified according to the Sustainable Eel Standard. MacAlister Elliott & Partners Ltd. (MEP), an independent consultancy, defines the standards and strict requirements for eel farming, and also evaluates which producers live up to them. MEP has been one of the world's leading consulting firms in the fishing industry for over three decades. The goal of the certification process is to increase the stock of European eel, and the Sustainable Eel Standard is the most important tool yet to ensure responsible eel production.
When MEP has certified that a producer meets the stringent requirements, the certification is signed by the International Sustainable Eel Group, which consists of representatives from a number of environmental organizations, grassroots movements, scientists, politicians and industry from a total of 13 countries.
“We have met the majority of MEP’s demands for many years,” explains managing director for Royal Danish Fish, Mogens Mathiasen. “These are actually no different than the goals we set for ourselves when we started our eel production. The European eel is under pressure, and we made a conscious decision right from the beginning to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It is therefore a real honor for us to be the first and only company to sell eel certified according to the Sustainable Eel Standard.”
The Sustainable Eel Standard has the most stringent certification requirements in the entire fishing industry, and exceeds by far the requirements of the more common certification, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), which only places demands on how fishing is actually carried out.
Part of the solution
The Sustainable Eel Standard goes much further. It includes requirements for low mortality rates for eels while they are being raised, compliance with applicable environmental impact requirements, fish handling that respects their welfare, and actively working to increase wild eel stocks by participating in restocking programs.
Production at Royal Danish Fish pays special attention to the environment by employing technology in which recirculation facilities recycle up to 98 percent of all water, reducing pollution significantly. And Royal Danish Fish has a very active policy for restocking eel fry. In total, Danish eel producers released more than two million eels into the wild in 2011. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration handles the release program, and ensures that the fry are healthy before release. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration also determines which lakes and streams the eels will be released into. For every eel from a Danish producer that ends up on the dinner table, five live eels have been released back into the wild.
 “This makes good sense for us,” concludes Mogens Mathiasen. “Because while the survival rate in the wild is very low, it is really good in our recirculation system. Eventually, some of the released eels will be caught as adults, and some of them will hopefully wander back to the Sargasso Sea near North America to guarantee the next generation. We feel a great responsibility to help ensure the stock of the European eel, and we constantly keep this in mind both by participating in release programs and by providing financial support for research projects that are trying to get eels to spawn in captivity. This will give us an alternative to catching glass eels.”


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