Ireland’s elver monitoring sites not operating again

We are very disappointed to report that many of Ireland’s national elver monitoring sites are not operational again this year in time for the elver run. This weekend we visited Inland Fisheries Ireland’s elver monitoring sites on the River Maigue, Co Limerick, and on the River Inagh, Clare. There were no traps operating on either river.

These are supposed to be key monitoring sites for Ireland’s national eel management plan, but there is no evidence that IFI is meeting its responsibilities here. This follows on from a tour we did last year where we demonstrated that juvenile eel runs were not being monitored effectively in Ireland. See our report from this time last year here:

River Maigue, Adare, Co Limerick. No elver monitoring traps operational by mid-April 2015.
River Maigue, Adare, Co Limerick. No elver monitoring traps operational by mid-April 2015.

It is noted that – following last year’s failures – the ESB have commenced elver trapping on the River Shannon and Erne in time this year and we will be reporting on these basic improvements shortly. However, it is clear that IFI are incapable of managing of a national elver monitoring programme. According to IFI (2013) “monitoring of recruitment is critical to evaluating the overall success of the eel regulation and is required by ICES for stock assessment“. It is very disappointing that such a, in their words, critical part of Ireland’s eel management plan is not being implemented in a satisfactory manner by our state fisheries agency.

At the time of writing this post elver runs are well under-way in Ireland. However, in the absence of an effective national elver monitoring programme it is again not clear what numbers of elvers are migrating up Irish rivers.

What is clear from Ireland however is that little or nothing is being done at present to open up barriers to migration for eels. All that has been done in Ireland to help the eel is to ban traditional eel fishing, and it is quite clear that migration barriers are the real issues facing eels in Ireland.

Only one dedicated elver pass was installed in Ireland in the past few years, and this does not work. We need to open up eel migration pathways and make sure any eel passes we build actually work.

There are a number of design flaws with this fish pass at Ennis. Eels that do find the eel pass and climb upstream will be washed down again as a soon as they reach to top. The eel brushes need to be extended further upstream here and improvements are required to attract elvers to the pass.

For detailed comment on this pass please see our post here.

It is noted that we have discussed the problems with this pass directly with a Fisheries Environmental Officer of Inland Fisheries Ireland and were told that this issue was being looked after last year. However, the contractor has now left the site and no modifications have been made. Why build elver passes when they cannot work?  Other fish passage improvement projects in the Shannon catchment last year (e.g. Belmont weir, River Brosna) did not consider eels whatsoever.

But in Ireland we are not building elver passes and are not opening up migration pathways. It is clear that EC regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the European eel (Council Regulation 11000/2007) needs to be urgently transposed into Irish Law.