What will be done to help elvers on the Shannon this year?

As we head into March, the first runs of glass eels and elvers are arriving at the upper Shannon estuary. Soon they will be migrating up the River Shannon along with tributaries of the Shannon estuary. The elver run last year was widely considered to be the best since the 1980’s but represented a lost opportunity as the ESB and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) failed to capitalise on this.

The only elver pass installed in the Shannon Region last year (at Ennis on the Fergus) does not work

By early May 2014 the ESB had failed to get their elver traps up and running on the River Shannon. Meanwhile they let over 300,000 elvers die in their traps on the Erne. When ESB finally got the River Shannon traps going in response to our complaints, they failed to ensure that there was adequate attraction water to the traps and managed only nominal catches in a record year. The “index” traps operated by IFI failed to detect the upturn and are just an index of this organisation’s incompetence in relation to eel management.

Glass eel catch, 3rd April 2014
The elver run on the River Shannon last year was very significant. We confirmed this with experimental fishing and had no problem collecting samples of elvers.
Glass eels, Shannon estuary
Some of the glass eels we collected last year using dip nets on the Maigue estuary.

IFI did not prosecute the ESB for the elver kill at Ballyshannon and claimed that ESB’s elver traps on the River Shannon were operating in early May – even though we had produced photographic evidence to the contrary.

Then the ESB and IFI refused to participate in a national eel conference backed by the Sustainable Eel Group and the Institute of Fisheries Management – and this had to then be abandoned.

The only elver pass installed in the Shannon Region last year (at Ennis on the Fergus) does not work as it was not installed correctly. There are hundreds of other barriers to eel migration in the Shannon Region which have not yet been even considered by IFI. The few fish passage improvements that were made (e.g. Belmont Weir on the Brosna) did not include an eel pass.

So what about the forthcoming 2015 elver run to the Shannon? Can we expect any better efforts from the ESB or IFI? Probably not but we will continue to expose their failures over the next few months on this page and lead a campaign calling for the sustainable management of the European eel in Ireland.