The European eel stock has been in rapid decline since around 1980. This long term decline continues to show no sign of recovery and is a matter for considerable concern. A number of causes have been suggested including changes in ocean climate, habitat loss, predation, hydroelectric turbine mortality, over-exploitation, pollution and parasites.
The European Commission, following a number of years of consultation, adopted European Eel Regulation (EC) No 1100/2007 on 18 September 2007 which aims to establish measures for the recovery of the European eel stock.
The Regulation requires the establishment of Eel Management Plans for each eel river basin, of which there are three in NI, which will demonstrate that at least 40% of the biomass of adult eels from each river basin relative to the best estimate of the potential escapement in the absence of human activities affecting the fishing area or stock are escaping to spawn.
Work is on-going in conjunction with other UK departments, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in ROI and the commercial eel industry to meet the requirements of this Regulation.
Essentially the Department is seeking to arrive at a balance between permitting a level of commercial fishing to continue and ensuring that there are adequate measures in place to contribute to conservation of the species and thus allow for both a sustainable eel stock and a sustainable industry in the future. Accordingly, the Department has made the Eel fishing Regulations (NI) 2010 and is preparing for a review of its 3 River Basin District Eel Management Plans by the EC in 2012.
Documents of interest