Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
368. Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason he proposes a complete ban on eel fishing here for 90 years in his Department’s national management plan; if he will proceed with the proposal in view of the fact that no other EU member state proposes a similar ban; if he will revisit the issue of eel fishing conservation in consultation with representatives of the eel fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8348/09]
374. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the European Eel Directive requires 40% reduction on fishing, yet he is closing the fishery, giving a 100% reduction; and his views on whether this is the correct course of action. [8733/09]
375. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason, in tough economic times, hundreds more eel fishermen will have to go on unemployment benefit. [8734/09]
The target of European Council Regulation No. 1100/2007, establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel, is commonly misquoted whereby it is claimed that the Regulation only required a reduction of just 40% in the catching of eels.
The EU target is clearly defined in the Regulation where it states that “the objective of each Member State’s Eel Management Plan shall be to reduce anthropogenic mortalities so as to permit with high probability the escapement to sea of at least 40% of the silver eel biomass relative to the best estimate of escapement that would have existed if no anthropogenic influences had impacted the stock”.
The Regulation requires that 4 kg of eels escape to sea for every 10 kg that would have escaped if people didn’t kill any or stop any migrating and the number of elvers coming into the water was as high as it ever was. It is not a 40% reduction in catch, or in the fishery, nor is it that we need only to let 40% of our silver eels escape.
Given the critical status of the eel stock, as demonstrated in the assessment contained in the draft Eel Management Plan, a number of management measures have been identified as necessary to reach the targets set in the Regulation, including closure of the commercial and recreational fishery from 2009.
The Irish eel fishery harvests approximately 100 tonnes per annum and I understand that there are up to 150 fishermen who hold a maximum of 296 licences, not all of which are actively fished. Catches have been declining over recent years because of the status of stocks. Eel fishing is not a full time occupation and it is restricted depending on the type of fish being targeted, to certain months of the year and times of the lunar cycle.
The decision to cease the eel fishery was taken to support a recovery of the stock in the shortest time possible, which if all measures proposed are adopted and if the EU Member States adopt a similar conservative approach, could be as long as 90 years (i.e. an average of 4 eel generations). Under the Regulation, all aspects of the Plan must be reviewed in 2012. This review will consider, inter alia, whether the eel fishery and market could be reopened in any River Basin District in light of the data gathered in the interim and the performance of stocks. However, when the last 20 years of poor recruitment is taken into account, it is likely that the adult eel stock in Irish waters will continue to decline for at least the next decade.
I am not aware of the content of the plans, as yet largely unpublished, submitted by other Member States in response to their obligations under the EC Regulation. Over the coming months, these, along with Ireland’s draft plan, have to be evaluated by the European Commission as to their adequacy in delivering the objectives of the Eel Regulation.
Clearly the status of stocks in other Member States will differ from that of Ireland’s, depending on local conditions and therefore their plans may make different recommendations. All must, however, clearly demonstrate how they would achieve the targets necessary for recovery of the European eel stocks. Ireland’s draft Eel Management Plan relies upon the most up-to-date information available.
|Last Updated: 07/10/2010 14:59:24||Page of 314|