A group of the world's scientists is considering designating the Japanese eel as a species at risk of extinction on its red list, sources close to the issue said Saturday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, or IUCN, will discuss the matter at a meeting to be held in Britain from July 1 to 5, according to the sources.
While it does not bring about any legal binding force even if the eel is listed on the world's most authoritative red list, the possible listing will raise global awareness on the situation.
The Japanese eel, whose population is decreasing in East Asia, has already been designated as a species at risk of extinction on the Japanese Environment Ministry's nonlegally binding red list of endangered freshwater and brackish water fishes in February.
At the July meeting, the experts will examine the inhabiting situations of 19 kinds of eels, including the Japanese eel, in the world and discuss whether to designate each of them as an endangered species.
According to documents prepared ahead of the meeting, catches of parent Japanese eels have declined by around 90 percent in Japan during the past 30 years, while their populations in Taiwan and the Philippines are declining.
The documents also note that the deterioration in river environment and fishing are the greatest threats to the Japanese eel, prompting expectations it will be designated as an endangered species, although the possibility of non-designation remains due to limited data on inhabitant situations in places other than Japan.
Currently, the European eel is listed on top of the IUCN's three-category endangered list as a species that is highly feared to become extinct in the near future, and is subject to trade control under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known as the Washington Convention.