Prof. Dr. K. Tiews
Bundesforschungsanstalt für Fischerei
Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Gentlemen,
As the present Presiding Director of the Federal Fisheries Research Board in Hamburg, it is my privilege and great pleasure to welcome you on the occasion of the EIFAC Consultation on Eel Fishing Gear and Techniques. I should like to express on behalf of my country our deep appreciation for accepting our invitation to hold this meeting in our Institute in view of the high esteem and the economic importance of eel in many countries.
In the past 10 years the production of eel in the world has doubled. In 1968, 51 000 tons of eel were caught and of these, 21 000 tons were produced in the member countries of EIFAC. The leading eel producing nations being Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and many others, including Germany. In the Federal Republic of Germany eel production is deemed to be the staple of inland fisheries because it is one of the few fish species which are affected least by water pollution and eutrophication problems and, furthermore, because it commands a very good price on the market. Present price to fishermen ranges between 7 – 9 Deutsche Marks per kg. The eel is considered to be a delicacy of the highest rank on the German market, and the German people are among the major consumers of eels in the world. Imports are steadily increasing and are estimated to amount at present to more than 4 500 tons. They come from 15 countries, including Denmark, Sweden, France, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, and U.S.A. This tasty fish is appreciated very much because it can be eaten in so many different ways, such as smoked, cooked, fried, grilled, baked and made in gelée. It is a popular saying that one does not wish to eat salmon more than once per week, but one would like to eat eel every day.
Although eel production in Germany amounts only to 1 500 tons per annum, half from coastal waters and half from inland waters, a great variety of fishing gear and methods are employed to catch it, perhaps more so than in any other country in the world. It was the recognition of this fact which prompted my Government to issue the invitation to EIFAC to hold this Consultation in Hamburg; and your Host and Local Organizer, Prof. v. Brandt has borne this in mind in arranging for the series of lectures to be given by the experts of this Institute, and the Study Tour of eel fishing gear and methods which he has planned for you.
Eels are caught in Germany by means of otter board trawls, traps and hooks in coastal waters, with stow nets from anchored fishing boats, otter board stow nets, bottom trawls, longlines, permanent barriers, traps and electrical fishing gear in rivers and lakes. The development of some of these methods are based on research work which has been carried out by the staff of this Research Board.
However, in this Institute we deal, not only with investigations aiming at improving eel catching methods but also with the study of its biological aspects both in our coastal and inland waters. In recent years, eel migration has been extensively studied by means of tagging experiments both in the rivers and the sea.
Since natural eel resources are obviously limited in Germany as in other countries, much thought has been given to increasing eel production by carrying out large scale stocking of waters throughout the entire country with elvers and fingerlings.
However, here also there are limitations, so for the past few years, we have been exploring the possibility of introducing eel farming in Germany. In this connexion an experimental eel farm has been built at Müden on the River Mosel. This consists of 5 ponds having a total area of 6 000 m2 for which there is a water supply of 400 litres per second. In this farm, we are experimenting various ways to culture eels. Although considerable progress has been achieved, for a variety of reasons we are still a long way from the practical application of this method on a large scale. We shall continue with our work, bearing in mind that Japan has succeeded in eel culture. In fact, in 1968, Japan produced 23 000 tons more eels than were produced in the whole of Europe.
The Federal Research Board of Fisheries comprises four fisheries research institutes; the Institute for Sea Fishery; the Institute for Coastal and Fresh Water Fishery; the Institute for Fishing Gear and Fishing Methods and the Institute for Biochemistry and Technology. In addition there is a radio isotope laboratory. Also, a documentation service is maintained. In all, there is a staff of nearly 200 in the Federal Research Board of Fisheries, 56 of whom are scientists working not only in Hamburg but also in sub-stations of the Institutes located in Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Kiel. A great variety of work is being carried out of which 90 per cent is concerned with marine fishery problems. It ranges from work on stock assessment for the entire Atlantic, water pollution, naval architecture, ship fouling, the development of an integrated fish catching system, to studies of how to improve the quality of fish and the development of new fish culture techniques.
I should like to conclude these opening remarks by expressing the hope that this meeting on Eel Fishing Gear and Techniques will be a successful one and that your discussions may bring fruitful results for all of us. On behalf of the Research Board, may I take this opportunity to cordially invite you to a reception which has been arranged in your honour and which will take place in our meeting room on the 4th floor of this building immediately after the afternoon session.
We are happy that you are with us and we hope that you will also find the time to enjoy your visit to Hamburg with its many possibilities. We will all be only too pleased to help you in finding your way around.
Before closing, I feel I must bring to the attention of such a distinguished group of experts one eel fishing method which, no doubt, will be strange to you but which has been described by one of our angry young writers - Günther Grass. He reports in one of his famous novels that the inhabitants of his home town Gdansk, were accustomed to place the skulls of cows in an advanced state of decay in the coastal waters overnight and next morning to collect the eels which were attracted and had collected inside. In conclusion, may I wish you good luck in your deliberations. Thank you.