Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
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.
The 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 give effect to the National Eel Management Plan and provide for closure of the fishery until June 2012, when the status of stocks will be fully reviewed and reported on to the European Commission.
This review will consider whether the eel fishery could be reopened in any River Basin District in light of the data gathered in the interim and the performance of stocks. The EMP includes a comprehensive programme of monitoring and evaluation of management actions and their implementation. It also includes a programme of scientific eel stock assessment to establish a stock baseline, estimate current silver eel escapement and monitoring the impact of the management actions on the local stocks.
The imperative is to ensure that the vulnerable stocks of eels are protected – currently it would be premature to speculate on the future of the eel fishery and whether it will be open to commercial exploitation.
The status of the European Eel in Ireland was recently defined as critically endangered (Ireland Amphibians, Reptiles & Freshwater Fish Red Data List, published in 2011). Scientific analysis estimated that 2007 Eel escapement (adults going to sea) was at 23% of pristine stock and declining. Due to the very long cycle and slow growth in Irish waters it is probable that any recovery of the Irish eel stocks will be over a very long time frame.