Dublin, 24 November 2015
Better data to support decisions on prospects for both Stock and Fishermen
Joe McHugh T.D., Minister with responsibility for Natural Resources, today announced a new collaborative research initiative involving Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) scientists and a number of former eel fishermen to further develop national knowledge of the species and its medium to longer term potential for recovery.
Based on management advice from IFI and scientific advice from the standing Scientific Committee for Eels (SSCE) the existing conservations measures, in Ireland's Eel Management Plan (EMP) agreed by the EU under EC Regulation 1100/2007, will remain in place up to mid-2018.
Minister McHugh said "IFI has submitted advice and recommendations on Ireland's EMP in the period 2015-18. These recommendations are cognisant of the independent scientific recommendations from the Standing Scientific Committee on Eels (SSCE) which underline the risk in opening fisheries at this time.
"I am anxious that a scientific fishery involving some of the stakeholders is undertaken for the next three years to increase data and knowledge ahead of further review and I have secured funding to start the research in 2016. This would facilitate a better informed decision on the outlook for the stock over the next few years and beyond and also the prospects for a return to commercial fishing activity."
The Minister also pointed out that IFI would examine the data derived from the new initiative annually and review recommendations on management measures if the research supported this. He also pointed out that while some river basin districts appeared to attain the escapement targets set in the EU regulation but the regulation clearly required attainment of targets over the long term. He said "Progress has been made since 2009 when the protection actions were introduced with some rivers basins showing encouraging signs, but we cannot undermine that progress by undoing key conservation measures because we have some green shoots."
Minister Mc Hugh also emphasised that he fully appreciates the demographics of the former fishermen and the difficulties experienced by them since 2009. "I want to use the new scientific research to better explore the potential for short to medium term recovery of the fishery and prospects for fishing in the future. We have put in place measures to protect eel stocks but based on the research outcome I will be better placed to consider the longer term socio-economic impacts on fishermen and communities and what measures it may be possible to put in place for fishermen."
The measures currently in place under Ireland's EMP principally involve a cessation of the commercial eel fishery and closure of the market and mitigation of the impact of hydropower installations.
Note to Editors
International Scientific advice
The latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) for 2016 (published October 2015) is that "the status of eel remains critical and that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) affecting production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible."
While the annual recruitment of glass eel to Europe had increased over recent years, the annual recruitment in 2015 decreased compared to 2014, from 3.7% to 1.2% of the 1960–1979 level in the 'North Sea' series, and from 12.2% to 8.4% in the 'Elsewhere Europe' series. The annual recruitment of young yellow eel to European waters decreased to 11% of the 1960–1979 level. These recruitment indices are well below the 1960–1979 un-impaired reference levels, and there is no change in the perception of the status of the stock as being critically endangered.