A Limerick-based scientist has claimed a large number of eels were killed at the Ardnacrusha electricity generating station because the ESB was taking too much water from the Shannon, without having adequate mitigation in place.
The kill occurred on the lower Shannon during Storm Barra, on the night of December 7/8 last, as the eels were trying to pass downstream at the hydroelectric station.
Large numbers of dead and dying eels were found along the river. These were adult silver eels on their spawning migration to the Sargasso Sea.
Will O’Connor is now calling for independent monitoring of ESB activities and new legislation for the licensing and regulation of hydroelectric stations. He believes the Shannon operation can be managed in a more sustainable way.
"The key issue is the excessive water abstraction," he said. "It is not acceptable in 2022 for the ESB to be taking up to 97% of the flow from the Lower River Shannon SAC. Most of the problems caused by this scheme are linked to water management."
Dr O’Connor, a former ESB fisheries biologist who has been awarded a PhD for his study of eels in the Shannon, has been campaigning on the issue for many years. He is also dissatisfied with the actions of Inland Fisheries Ireland regarding the ESB.
He described eel kills as an ongoing problem at Ardnacrusha that has never been addressed:
“The fact that hundreds were visible along the Lower River Shannon on the morning of December 8, 2021, indicated that thousands were killed.’’
The ESB, meanwhile, said it has invested significant resources into an eel trapping and transport programme with protocols for both juvenile and adult eels. Ireland was now at the forefront in Europe in this regard.
“According to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, our Eel Trap and Transportation programme accounts for almost 50% of all eels successfully entering the ocean in the EU under a Trap and Transport initiative," said an ESB spokesperson.
“Between 2009 and 2020, ESB successfully trapped, transported and safely released between 2.8 million and 3.5 million eels.
“While we are continually reviewing and seeking ever better ways of improving survival rates, some eel mortalities will always be an unfortunate consequence of hydroelectric generation.
"There are currently no readily available solutions to fully eliminate the loss of some eels as part of this form of renewable power.
"We remain open to adopting fresh measures or modifying existing measures that can be shown to be more effective and practicable."