Ireland to close eel fishery through 2012


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
May 18, 2009

Steps to curtail eel fishing were inked into law late last week in Ireland by Eamon Ryan, minister for energy, communications and natural resources.

In a bid to temper dwindling eel stocks, the commercial and recreational eel fisheries will be shut down until June 2012, at which point the minister will review the closure.

“To do otherwise would eliminate eel stocks from Irish rivers forever and do untold damage to our inland waterways, wildlife habitats and species survival in general,” said Ryan.

The minister’s press office told SeafoodSource that a draft eel fishery management plan for Lough Neagh, one of Europe’s largest eel fisheries, has been submitted to the European Commission for approval.

“The department understands that this contains a proposal for the continuation of commercial fishing based on the long-term management of the fishery, including stocking, which has been shown to allow more silver eels escape than would be escaping if this management regime had not been put in place,” said the press office.

Overall, European eels stocks are diminishing. Earlier this decade, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicated that the stocks are so depleted that it is now “outside safe biological limits.”

The Irish eel harvest produces 100 to 120 metric tons a year; 150 and 200 fishermen participate in the fishery, which is valued at EUR 500,000 to 750,000 (USD 682,000 to 1 million) a year.

Ryan said on Friday that fishermen would be in a “very strong position” to participate in a silver eel trap and transport research program on the Shannon and Erne rivers, which is part of the eel fishery management plan.

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