Tokyo: A growing concern among the Japanese is that the eel, which is an integral part of the country`s diet, has been listed as endangered.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Thursday said that adding the eel to the list of endangered species could mean a ban on the international trade of the animal.
This announcement has become a cause of great concern among the eel traders in Japan, who due to the significant decline in the local numbers of the marine animal in recent years depend largely on its import, especially in the spawning stage, from countries such as South Korea or China.
"If the import and export of the young eel is regulated even more, we could be forced to shut down", a trader said.
To meet the huge domestic demand of this product, Japan buys 70 percent of the eels captured in the world.
Therefore, the owners of restaurants selling eel fear an escalation of prices and a marked fall in its sales.
The over-exploitation has caused the annual catch of young eels in Japanese waters to fall drastically in the last few years.
From 232 tonnes in 1963, the catch fell to little more than 100 in the 1970s and has further decreased to less than 10 tonnes every year since 2010.