Scientific research, conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), has indicated that the European eel fish stock is so depleted that it is now outside safe biological limits. The ICES advised that a recovery plan be developed for the whole stock of European eel and that exploitation and other human activities affecting the fishery be reduced as much as possible. The EU brought forward Council Regulation 1100/2007, establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel.
The Irish Fishery
Up to its closure in 2009 the Irish eel fishery harvested approximately 100 tonnes per annum and there were some 150 fishermen who held a maximum of 295 licences, not all of which were actively fished. Catches have been declining over recent years because of the status of stocks. Eel fishing was not a full time occupation and it was restricted depending on the type of fish being targeted. The Irish fishery harvest was less than 2% of the European harvest.
Eel Management Plans
Under Council Regulation 1100/2007 an Eel Management Plan (EMP) had to be prepared by all Member States for implementation from 1 July 2009. The objective of each EMP was to reduce anthropogenic mortalities to achieve a target escapement of adult eel equivalent to 40% of biomass.
A Joint Working Group was established in 2008 to prepare Ireland’s national eel management plan and to develop an eel management plan, on a river basin district basis, as required by the EC Regulation.
A public consultation exercise was also undertaken in September 2008. All former Regional Fisheries Boards held presentations to which eel fishermen were invited as part of this process. Some 16 submissions were received in response (the majority from eel fishermen). All of these were considered by the Joint Working Group.
A draft Eel Management Plan for Ireland was submitted to and approved by the European Commission. Given the implications of the scientific and management advice, the absolute necessity to conserve remaining stocks and the obligation to contribute to the recovery of stocks in the shortest time possible, four main Management Actions aimed at reducing eel mortality and increasing silver eel escapement in Irish waters are identified in the Eel Management Plan.
- an immediate cessation of the commercial eel fishery and closure of the market,
- mitigation of the impact of hydropower, including a comprehensive silver eel trap and transport plan,
- ensuring upstream migration of juvenile eel at barriers and
- the improvement of water quality in eel habitats.
It will take many years to achieve recovery of stocks to historical levels. An evaluation of the eel stock and management measures will be undertaken every 3 years until 2018 and every 6 years there after. For the foreseeable future, management of the fishery will focus on conservation.
Eel Management Plan - National ( pdf 3.56Mb)
Eel Management Plan - Eastern River Basin District ( pdf 355Kb)
Eel Management Plan - South Eastern River Basin District ( pdf 387Kb)
Eel Management Plan - South Western River Basin District ( pdf 389Kb)
Eel Management Plan - Shannon River Basin District ( pdf 1.67Mb)
Eel management Plan - Western River Basin District ( pdf 1.67Mb)
Eel Management Plan - North Western River Basin Distict ( pdf 467Kb)