UK Glass Eel's March Newsletter 2017.
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Start of the UK Season

Conditions on the river this year at the start of the season are as good as it gets, river levels are perfect and temperatures are just under 10°C. The English season is just open and the results of fishing the first tide are very favourable. We are even fishing in the day which is very unusual.  We are collecting some very nice glass eels from our most southern river the Parrett. It bodes well for a good season.  The count at the moment is 3250 pieces per kilo.
We have already allocated a substantial portion of our production to restocking so we do not have to supply mixed batches of glass eels for aquaculture (25%- 50% restocking and the rest consumption as from France). You can have 100% consumption stock for aquaculture.
Our English Elvers being unloaded after being collected from fishermen on the River Parrett.

Kilograms or pieces and counts?

A newly-minted millionaire sought entry into an exclusive society club. When the secretary asked for his net worth, he proudly replied, “$13,403, 374.” The crisp response was not long in coming. “If you're still counting”, said the secretary, “you need not bother with our club.”
Looking at the economic position of our sector I do not think any of us will be a position not to bother to count.
Counting is fundamental to the perception of quantity and value. The purpose of counting is to assign a numeric value to a group of objects. Counting the number of eggs in a basket the result is always the same. The problem with glass eels is that not only do the numbers per kilo change throughout the season but the outcome of any weighing process is highly dependent on the manner in which it is carried out.
How much water is in the consignment? How much water can be squeezed out of the glass eels without damaging or compromising the welfare of the stock? 
Existing methods of counting by hand are time consuming, variable, and unverified with outcomes that are dependent on the operator.
Digitised images of glass eels passing through the Vaki fish counter.
We have been working with Vaki over the last three years to develop a counter that can reliably determine the number of glass eels in our transport boxes. From a sample of boxes taken from the consignment we can now determine the average count per box and ultimately the total number of pieces per consignment. Ultimately we would like to count every glass eel but for the moment it is a matter of testing the technology.
It has been a challenging experience but we are now in a position to trial the counting machine to determine the number of pieces shipped per consignment.
The glass eels are divided into a single layer and in a thin film of water passed over a parabolic channel that results in further separation. Vaki have designed an algorithm that defines the identity of a glass eel. The passage of the glass eels in viewed using a high definition video camera and the digital images are analysed. Those images that are recognised as glasseels are counted. Other images such as small fish fry and shrimps are discarded.
The data can be recorded and using the Vaki software it is also possible for the client to manually verify the count. 


I would say it has been a difficult season for many glass eel producers this year. The price of glass eels was a 100 euros per kg more than in previous years and this price was maintained well after Christmas. The suspicion is that a large proportion of the French catch was being exported to Asia. A lot of the consumption quota has been used and in our region, the GDC, we only have the option to buy restocking fish.  The suitcase trade to Asia has continued unabated. There does seem to have been very few suitcase interceptions as the trade has shifted from Hong Kong to mainland China.
More interesting are the interceptions of glass eels that has been made at Arcachon (a consignment of shrimps destined to Thailand!!?), Athens and Roissy (Charles-de-gaulle). All destined for Asia.
The catch data for France seems to have a sudden peak these last two weeks. Is there more glass eels or just more declarations as the illegal operators look for different options?
This is not the end of illegal exports. I have reports that consignments in the order of 500 kgs of European glass eels continue to flow into Asia. The penalties and risks are the same whether it is 50 kgs or 500 kgs. "May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb."  "On peut aussi bien être pendu pour un mouton que pour un agneau" as they would say in France.
Just good luck for the regulators and bad luck for the operators. This trade will continue while there is demand, and rules  that facilitate the margin and regulators  who have insufficient resources to be effective. The price is about 1300 Euros per kg in Hong Kong,  the additional risks now involved have increased the price in Asia which ironically make the business more attractive to these illegal traders. 


It looks if the production of A. Japonica is better than last year. Prices have not been very stable this year.   It causes some confusion in the market place. Before the Chinese New Year prices dropped to 8-9 rmb per piece but now it is 12 rmb /piece.  12 rmb is 1.68 Euros
The season for A.rostrata in the Caribbean is coming to a close. Glass eel counts are in the order of 7000 pieces per kilo and the price 3600 USD delivered Hong Kong. The fishing will start in the US in March with the expectation that the prices will start at 3500 USD per kilo.  


Peter Wood.

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UK Glass Eels · 123 Hempsted Lane, Gloucester, United Kingdom · Gloucester, England GL25JY · United Kingdom

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