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glass eels (elvers)

Bowl of baby eels.

Also known as piballes or alevins d'anguilles, civelles are baby eels (anguilles) and considered a great delicacy, especially in Bordeaux, Nante, La Rochelle and the Basque Country, but are increasingly rare (since the turn of the millennium there are 4-6% fewer every year) and protected, and the few that are legally allowed to be caught are very very expensive. They are also hugely popular in China.

They drift eastwards from the Sargasso Sea where they are born and end up in Spanish and French estuaries, notably the Gironde. Because they are so expensive they are often illegally poached: in June 2021, an international glass eel trafficking network operating in France was dismantled, which in a few years had involved 46 tonnes of poached glass eels illegally exported to Asian countries for €18.5 million. And it happened again in May 2023.

Not surprisingly, there are growing calls for all eel fishing to be banned until the species revives.

Fish and seafood

Text © Dana Facaros

Image by Krista