The European eel is considered “Critically Endangered.” Its population has been declining due to overutilization, barriers to migration such as dams, pollution, and climate change. The international community has responded by including the European eel in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”) to regulate international trade and Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (“CMS”) to help improve the species conservation status. The EU has taken regional action to prohibit imports into and exports from EU Member States, although intra-EU trade is permissible. Despite these actions, the eel’s conservation status might not be improving. The eel’s Appendix II status on CITES regulates only international trade. The CMS Appendix II listing does not impose any specific conservation obligations on the Parties. No other international treaty has the competence to manage the full suite of threats across the eel’s range.

Thus, European eel conservation would benefit from a new international legal instrument negotiated under the auspices of CMS. Unlike other agreements, a legal instrument negotiated under CMS can cover the full range of the European eel’s freshwater and marine habitat and address the full range of threats to the species. CMS Agreements can be legally binding or not. Regardless of the instrument’s legal status, it should prohibit or regulate taking; prohibit or regulate trade, potentially through a CDS; establish an advisory body to assess new scientific information and review management strategies; and include reporting obligations to help monitor the success or failure of management strategies.