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Willem Dekker

Dr. Willem Dekker has been an eel student since 1984. In 2004, he wrote his PhD thesis, about the decline of the eel stock and fisheries all over Europe. He had a central position in the development of a European protection plan for the eel (2007). Since 2010, he has been employed at the Sqwedish Agricultural University.


Dr. Willem Dekker has been involved in eel research since 1984. Starting from a local perspective on the fisheries in Lake IJsselmeer (the Netherlands), he developed a pan-European view on the long-term population dynamics of the European eel stock, culminating in his 2004 PhD thesis: “Slipping through our hands; population dynamics of the European eel”. He has chaired the Eel Working Group, a joint group of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Committee, from 1996 to 2006 – the period of converting fisheries advancements, into managing the stock sustainably. He had a leading position in the design and development of the European Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel.


My research interests focus on the assessment and management of the eel fisheries throughout Europe, including historical and cultural aspects, assessment procedures and governance processes, and stock dynamics.


Trained as mathematical biologist, employed on a stock with major governance problems, and now turning to historical studies with almost no hard data – he has travelled a long way from home. Though working on a species (eel) showing a multi-decadal decline has been a challenge, it also gives purpose, and brings him un unchallenged, and often unchartered territories. 

Selected publications

Showing a small selection:

Dekker W. 2000. The fractal geometry of the European eel stock. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 57:109–121.

Dekker W. 2003a. On the distribution of the European eel (Anguilla naguilla) and its fisheries. Canadian Journal of Aquatic Sciences, 60:787–799. Doi: 10.1139/F3-066.

Dekker W. 2003b. Did lack of spawners cause the collapse of the European eel, Anguilla anguilla? Fisheries Management and Ecology, 10:365–376.

Dekker W. 2004. Slipping through our hands - Population dynamics of the European eel. PhD thesis, 11 October 2004, University of Amsterdam, 186 pp.

Dekker W. 2016. Management of the eel is slipping through our hands! Distribute control and orchestrate national protection. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 73, 2442–2452. DOI:

Dekker W. 2019. Smoked eel was not a delicacy! The history of smoked eel in Amsterdam and the rest of the world. Chapter 2 (pp. 10–19) in: Don A. & Coulson P. Eels - Biology, Monitoring, Management, Culture and Exploitation: Proceedings of the First International Eel Science Symposium. 5M Publishing, London.

Dekker W. 2020. The history of commercial fisheries for European eel commenced only a century ago. Fisheries Management and Ecology. Published online 17 July 2018. Doi: 10.1111/fme.12302.

Dekker W. and Beaulaton L. 2016a. Faire mieux que la nature – the history of eel restocking in Europe. Environment and History, 22(2): 255–300.  DOI:

Dekker W. and Beaulaton L. 2016b. Climbing back up what slippery slope? Dynamics of the European eel stock and its management in historical perspective. ICES Journal of Marine Science 73: 5–13. DOI: