No more endangered eel at top Dutch supermarket

Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:54am EST
 
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AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - Smoked eel on toast looks set to become an even rarer treat at Dutch parties, as the main supermarket group in the Netherlands plans to stop selling the endangered fish from 2010.

Following moves by smaller competitors, Albert Heijn said it would phase out all eel products on its shelves next year, and would introduce a different fish sort as a more sustainable alternative to the popular national delicacy.

The Ahold-owned chain has more than a 30 percent share of the Dutch market, far outstripping rivals.

The move will come as a blow to Dutch fisheries, who have also been hit by a partial ban on eel fishing introduced this year, aimed at stemming a 95 percent slide in the European eel population in the past four decades [ID:nL2627330].

The European eel is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The Dutch arm of environmental group WWF has compared eating an eel roll to consuming a panda sandwich.

The long snake-like slippery fish is a popular treat at Dutch parties and fairs, most commonly smoked but also baked and eaten in stews for dinners.

It also holds a place in Dutch history.

In the 19th century, people died in the "eel uprising" that followed a ban on the sport of "eel pulling," which involved stringing a rope across a canal and hanging an eel for people on boats to try to grab.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby, editing by Paul Casciato)