Following scientific research conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicating that the European eel stocks are in a critical state, the EU introduced Council Regulation 1100/2007, the objective of which is to achieve recovery of the stocks to previous high levels. The Regulation required that all Member States prepare a national Eel Management Plan (EMP). Ireland's plan was approved by the European Commission in July, 2009.
Bye-laws, Conservation of Eel Fishing Bye-law No. C.S. 303, 2009 and Conservation of Eel Fishing (Prohibition On Issue Of Licences) Bye-law No. 858, 2009, were signed by the then Minister in 2009 prohibiting the capture of eels. There was no provision for compensation for those who previously engaged in this fishery on a commercial basis.
The then Central and Regional Fisheries Boards (now Inland Fisheries Ireland — IFI) engaged with the eel fishermen representatives to investigate possible diversification schemes; however, no specific funding was identified for diversification. I understand that a number of former eel fishermen have been contracted by the ESB to undertake Trap and Transport operations to mitigate the impact of hydropower schemes as part of the eel management plan.
There is no property right attaching to public eel licences and consequently the issue of compensation does not arise, given that the closure of the fishery was applied for conservation reasons under the Fisheries Acts. Given that context and having regard to National economic circumstances, no provision has been made for compensation payments.
The National EMP is currently being updated following the provision of three additional years of scientific research and monitoring of the status of eels stocks. The latest independent Standing Scientific Committee report on eels is available on the IFI website and a link to this web page is also available on my Department's website. IFI's three-year eel monitoring report is also available online.
Ireland's EMP Implementation report, which details progress on Ireland's 2009 EMP, is due to be submitted to the EU shortly. In relation to the information contained in these reports and prior to consideration of the continuation of existing measures, a public consultation period has been undertaken. The closing date for receipt of submissions to be considered as part of the review of eel plans for Ireland was set as Monday 2nd July 2012. However, on foot of presentations made to stakeholders as part of the consultation, I extended the closing date to 11th July to facilitate the receipt of submissions from as many stakeholders as possible. Submissions made during the public consultation period, which included a number of public meetings/seminars, will be considered in formulating proposals for the management of the eel fishery for the coming years. Three public meetings on the EMPs have been held in Clonmel, County Tipperary on 19th June, in Athlone, County Westmeath on 20th June and in Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim on 21st June. Copies of all relevant documents (EU Report, Scientific Report and Monitoring Report) were available at the public meetings and on IFI's website (www.fisheriesireland.ie) or through the link on my Department’s website (www.dcenr.gov.ie).