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Relais & Châteaux chefs pledge to stop serving eel with immediate effect to prevent its extinction

Relais & Châteaux

Working in concert with Ethic Ocean, the Association’s World Culinary Council will lobby European ministers to protect biodiversity.

PARIS – The members of Relais & Châteaux‘s World Culinary Council has voted to immediately remove eel from their own menus and are sending a call to action to the rest of the group’s 580 hotels and restaurants to do the same, after its NGO partner Ethic Ocean launched an alert that public authorities must urgently listen to scientists who recommend suspending European eel fishing.

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla), which is featured in menus all over the world–and revered in certain French, Spanish, Belgian, Dutch and Japanese culinary cultures–is considered critically endangered and features 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 all the causes of the alarming decline of this species–but for the last three years, they have recommended suspending fishing.

In this context, the 21 Relais & Châteaux chefs elected to the Association’s World Culinary Council gathered in October and voted to approve an immediate ban of European eel from its menus. In partnership with Ethic Ocean, Relais & Châteaux calls on the 27 European Union ministers to hear this chef mobilization and scientific recommendation in order to take the necessary measures this December to safeguard this species.

The effort follows a similar approach taken by the Association, in 2009, to save the bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, which were close to collapsing. This action contributed to public mobilization around this species, which encouraged legislators to enact management measures adapted to the situation of the state of the stock.

A Variety of Issues

The situation with eels is very alarming because this species suffers from a numerous challenges including water pollution (particularly rivers), habitat destruction, dams that impede their biological cycle and illegal fishing, which has created a black market, fetching up to 5,000 euros per kilo. Eels are the only fish that are targeted at their juvenile stage, on top of the fact that it takes them a long time to reach reproductive maturity.

While it is urgent to suspend eel fishing today, it is crucial that the public authorities take the necessary measures to fight against the other causes of the decline of this species.

Mauro Colagreco, Vice President, Chefs of Relais & Châteaux and therefore leader of the World Culinary Council, and chef-owner of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur in the South of France, 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.”

Gastronomy: Dependent on Nature

The World Culinary Council–an international committee of 21 chefs from across the Relais & Châteaux network–had gathered over October 8-10, 2023, under the Association’s president, Laurent Gardinier.

Laurent Gardinier said: “We have an acute understanding that Relais & Châteaux, and our very art de vivre, is dependent on nature. We must lead in sustainability to protect the ecosystems and biodiversity that our culinary and travel experiences rely on. It is these experiences that move our guests emotionally. And this would not be possible without nature.”

A Vehicle for Change

The World Culinary Council wishes to draw attention to the plight of eels. Relais & Châteaux has had a partnership with Ethic Ocean since 2009 and regularly unites its members around actions in favor of the environment, especially marine biodiversity (for example, World Oceans Day).

Gilles Boeuf, president of Ethic Ocean, said, “I am happy to see the Relais & Châteaux association support this alert, which aims, above all, to preserve an exceptional species that reflects humanity’s relationship with the environment. This cause to save the eel touches on many biodiversity issues. Let’s act before it’s too late.”

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