A seminar on the impact of the Eel Fishing Ban was discussed at a recent seminar held in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
Following on from the seminar a report suggests that the willingness to shut down the eel fishery in Ireland is indicative of successive governments’ attitude towards Irish fisheries in general.
Midlands North West MEP Matt Carthy, who organised the seminar commented that the stated aim of preserving eel stocks is not consistent with the apparent failure to address the loss of huge numbers of eels on a regular basis.
He added: "For Sinn Féin, our position is that we want any solution to be sustainable, we want to see eel stocks grow in the coming years. The European Commission confirmed at our seminar that the 3 year review is not binding and can be amended at any point in its cycle. If the political will existed within the Irish government to reverse the ban on eel fishing, they could do so in the morning, as long as other measures were implemented to reach 40% escapement.
"With that in mind, the Irish government must now recognise the loss of livelihoods and closure of businesses that have resulted from the ban which has not resolved the wider issues of eel stock levels.
"Stakeholders at the meeting expressed annoyance that a compensation scheme was not introduced eel fishers as it had been for salmon fishers previously. As a first step in addressing the failures to operate in an imaginative manner up to this point the new government should immediately introduce a hardship fund for those affected by the current ban”.
Contributors to the seminar held on April 1 included representatives from the European Commission, local Eel Fishers and international experts in the field.
Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada added, "We want affected stakeholders, specifically fishermen, to fully participate in conservation methods and joint management with a view to an alternative sustainable solution which would encompass lifting the eel ban in Ireland whilst taking into account the low stocks of eels.
"The priority of the ESB lies with the operation of the hydroelectric dams, not adequately maintaining and monitoring the elver traps - whose efficiency is less than 20% according to the European Eel Consultancy and therefore poor management by state authorities and a lack of transparency and accountability, including on behalf of the ESB, have collectively hindered the recovery and potential for the eel fishery.
"Utilising scientific data from stakeholders, there is basis for a challenge to the ban and the current management scheme that the ESB are primarily responsible for. I am meeting with the ESB next week to discuss ways in which we can take this forward, to ensure the protection of our eel fishermen."