Freshwater eel conservation in the Philippines

Philippine fisherfolk

ZSL’s eel project in the Philippines is all about tackling threats to freshwater (anguillid) eels, protecting the freshwater environment, and building the capacity of the communities who rely upon the eels. 

Why are eels under threat?

Freshwater biodiversity is declining faster than that of other ecosystems and it is essential that conservation attention is focussed on them to prevent further decline.

We believe that freshwater eels are under threat from pressures such as loss of habitat, fisheries, pollution and climate change, but our understanding of how these affect eels is poor. 

Tropical eel species like those found in the Philippines are particularly threatened and freshwater conservation and management is also limited in this region. A 2014 report revealed juvenile eels from the Philippines continue to be illegally traded in high quantities despite a worldwide ban.  

What is ZSL doing to help?

Freshwater biodiversity is declining faster than other ecosystems and it is essential that conservation attention is focussed on them to prevent further decline. 

Our pioneering project aims to better understand how threats are affecting eels, freshwater habitats and the fisherfolk who rely upon them. We also want to monitor the demand and trade – both legal and illegal - of these species at the national and international level. 

At present the team in the Philippines are carrying out a range of sociological and biological surveys  in order to better understand the ecological and economic baseline. To date the team has interviewed 650 fisherfolk in order to gather information on how reliant they are on eels and how sustainable the fishery is.

We are also working with fisherfolks as they fish for eels to understand how the catches change throughout the year, and also surveying key rivers in the region to assess threats to freshwater habitats. 

Our project partner TRAFFIC has also produced the first full analysis of the eel trade to and from the Philippines.

By protecting eel populations, and making sure fisheries are ecologically sustainable and economically equitable, we’re improving the security of freshwater biodiversity and the communities who are reliant upon it. 



Key Species

Freshwater (anguillid) eels – Anguilla bicolor, Anguilla luzonensis and Anguilla marmorata.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)
Department of Environment and Natural Resources


Darwin Initiative 

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