The Conservation of Eel Fishing (Prohibition on Issue of Licences) Bye-law No. 858, 2009 prohibited the issue of eel fishing licences in any Fishery District. This Bye-law was introduced following the requirement for Ireland and other EU Member states to draw up an Eel Management Plan (EMP) under the 2007 EU Eel regulation (1100/2007).
The International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised in 2011, that glass eel recruitment had fallen to 5% of their 1960-1979 level in the Atlantic region and precariously less than 1% in the North Sea area. The very latest ICES advice (2013) indicates that the annual recruitment of glass eel to European waters has increased marginally over the last two years to 1.5% of 1960-79 levels in the North Sea area, and to 10% in the Atlantic area. In Ireland, scientific studies also show that recruitment has been declining since the mid-1980s, for example in the 2000-2011 period, the glass eel catch in the Shannon was at 2% of the pre-1980 level. In addition, the status of the European Eel in Ireland has been defined by the United Nations as critically endangered.
Based on comprehensive scientific assessment of eel stocks nationally and a review of Ireland’s EMP in 2012 it was recommended that the closure of both the commercial and recreational eel fisheries be continued in line with the conservation imperative. In the light of these recommendations, the prohibition on issuing eel licences was continued in the Conservation of Eel Fishing Bye Law No. 312, 2012.
The 2012 review included a robust public consultation during which many issues were raised and considered. Full details of the outputs of the public consultation are available on the Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) web site. Similar reviews were carried out across the EU as the eel stock is endangered throughout Europe.
The review of scientific and management advice and inputs from the public consultation informed a decision to continue with the cessation of the commercial eel fishery and closure of the market for the period from 2012 to 2015. Ireland’s EMP will be reviewed again next year
I understand that a number of former eel fishermen have been engaged by the ESB to undertake Trap and Transport operations to mitigate the impact of hydropower schemes as part of the eel management plan and that this activity still continues.