Ban on eel fishing reviewed

IN the days when youngsters spent seemingly endless time fishing for brown trout, they would sometimes catch an eel, of which there was a plentiful supply in our lakes and rivers.

That has not been the case for many years.

Every other day, there are reports of species of wildlife being threatened with extinction. Ireland is no exception and soon a decision will be made on whether to lift a ban on eel fishing in the Republic, imposed for obvious reasons in 2009. By 2009, eels had become a ‘critically endangered’ species, according to the EU, and it was decided to prohibit fishing until Jun 2012 when the situation would be reviewed.

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd now says a decision to resume eel fishing will be based on information collected over the past three years, cautioning that any recovery of stocks will probably be over a very long period. Recovery will depend on tackling pollution in eel habitats, finding ways to ensure the upstream passage of juvenile eel at barriers and easing the effects of hydro-electric power stations.

The ban applied to the Shannon, Corrib and Lough Erne, but not to Europe’s largest commercial wildlife commercial fishery, in Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, which has also seen a huge decline in baby eels (elvers) in recent years. The shortage became so serious that the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society, which regulates the industry, was forced to start buying in millions of elvers from England.

People always try to come up with reasons for changes in nature patterns and, yes, you guessed it, the fall in the elver population has been attributed by some to global warming..

Believed to originate in the Sargasso Sea, in the Atlantic, elvers are taken by the Gulf Stream to the waters of Ireland and Britain. However, some believe global warming has affected the Gulf Stream’s direction and steered elvers away from the Irish coast. That’s hardly the full answer.

The largest freshwater eel in the world, formerly thriving in New Zealand’s lakes and rivers, is now in decline. Yet, it is still being killed for use in foods from sushi to dog food. Exploitation has been so severe that scientists are warning that this eel is fast heading the way of the ill-fated dodo.

It’s the same old story globally— which also explains why the New Zealand Department of Conservation has allocated longfin eels a higher conservation status than the great spotted kiwi.

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