The Irish Government has joined the EU member states in signing up to an agreement banning eel fishing. The ban, which applies to all 26 Irish counties, will begin at the end of July, and will be enforced for the next 90 years.
Minister of State Sean Power said that the ban was vital for conservation, as the European eel stock is now ‘outside safe biological limits’, as indicated by research by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
However, eel-catchers have reacted angrily, suggested that a variety of factors, such as hydro-electricity and pollution, had let to stock depletion, rather than over-fishing.
A spokesman for the Shannon Eel Fisherman’s Association claimed that Ireland was attempting to be ‘an over-zealous’ EU member state in imposing the ban when other EU counterparts are not.
The association also claims that fishermen were only invited to sit on a Government working group when the key decision had already been taken.
Eels are a common EU resource, spending part of their lives in freshwater and part in the ocean. Unlike fellow migrants, sea trout and salmon, they spawn in the sea and return to rivers and lakes to feed and grow.
The Irish fishery harvests about 100 tonnes per annum, which is less than 2% of the European harvest. The value of the Irish catch is between €500,000 and €750,000.
Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smoked Products says: ‘The ban is certainly justifiable in conservation terms, but many fishermen feel that it is too excessive. I suspect that the Government would find a quota system unenforceable, and so have taken the precautionary option.
‘This ban will have an enormous impact on small producers and those in the fishing industry, however it is clear it is clear that action has to be taken now, before it is too late.’