A decision on whether to prosecute the ESB over a major kill of critically endangered juvenile European eels (or elvers) at their hydroelectric installation on the River Erne in County Donegal is still outstanding. The elver kill happened in April 2014 and more than 300,000 juvenile eels died in traps at the bottom of the dam at Cathleen’s Falls in what was perhaps the largest documented fish kill to ever occur in Ireland. However Inland Fisheries Ireland have yet to make a decision on a course of action – seven months after the incident!
In a new BBC report Dr William O’Connor of the European Eel Consultancy said the elver run across Europe last year was the best since the 1980s and he accused ESB of being “caught off guard” by the dramatic turnaround in numbers returning to Irish rivers. “This is a significant kill and a huge missed opportunity“. The 300,000+ elvers reported to have perished at the ESB traps at Ballyshannon represented 21% of the total reported annual catch this year on the Erne (532.9 Kg). “From both a statistical and ecological perspective this was a significant quantity, and this elver kill would not have occurred if the traps had been operated appropriately” according to Dr O’Connor.
It is essential that ESB admit the mistakes that have been made, and put in place an efficient elver trapping programme for the 2015 season
The current upturn in elver numbers may be just temporary so everything possible needed to be done to maximise the use of this run for restocking purposes. A new approach is needed towards eel conservation that will also restore the traditional eel fishing industry.
According to BBC News, in reply to written questions by TUV assembly member Jim Allister following the elver kill in April 2014, the DCAL minister Carál Ní Chuilín said she was “most concerned” and had requested Inland Fisheries Ireland to provide a full report on the incident. However some seven months after this incident no report has been compiled, and no decision has been made.
Read the full BBC news report here:-
But ESB’S failures this year were not just confined to the Erne. On the Shannon the Ardnacrusha elver trap was not operating by the first week of May 2014 therefore missing the elver run. The peak run of elvers on the River Shannon in 2014 took place in April (as it generally does each year). However by early May the ESB still had no operational elver traps on the River Shannon – either at Ardnacrusha hydroelectric station or Parteen Regulating Weir. Read more here.