Ardnacrusha elver traps are not being maintained

The photo below shows the elver trap at Ardnacrusha hydroelectric station at the end of the 2021 season. This vegetation did not grow in a couple of weeks and shows that ESB is not maintaining this trap during the elver migration season. The climbing brushes have to be kept clear to allow elvers to ascend.

I spent years campaigning to get these elver traps upgraded so it is very disappointing to see that even when the ESB finally upgraded them that they are failing to maintain them. This is the video I made in 2016 that forced ESB to engage with me and finally upgrade their elver traps. It has taken years to get to the stage that the elver traps are upgraded. But if they are not maintained and operated optimally then this was all for nothing.

The elver trap at Ardnacrusha hydroelectric station at the end of the 2021 season. This vegetation did not grow in a couple of weeks and shows that is not maintaining this trap during the elver migration season.

The trap upgrades here all came from me. I met with the ESB several times in 2016 and 2017 and I provided free consultancy advice on how they could upgrade the elver trapping effort. The designs of the new elver traps were all my ideas and I met on site with the ESB several times during the design and installation of the traps. They took all my advice – apart from allowing independent monitoring. As soon as the elver traps were built they installed a boom to prevent access to the tailrace and stopped engaging with me. These traps are still not being operated properly as evidenced by the photo above.

During our many site meetings impacts on eels were regularly observed – for example here and here. This was one of the issues of course and ESB would prefer for impacts like this to be covered up.

The presentation I gave to the ESB in July 2016 can be found below. Once they had my design input and free consultancy advice they stopped engaging with me. I also gave another unpaid presentation with detailed consultancy advice to the so-called Shannon Fisheries Partnership, ESB, and IFI in May 2017 and this presentation is also provided below. During 2016-2017 I visited Ardnacrusha and Parteen weir on at least 10 occasions to input into the upgrading of the traps.

Presentation to ESB (5th July 2016)

Presentation to ‘Shannon Fisheries Partnership’ (30th May 2017)

During the summer of 2021, I heard from an ESB contractor that the trap was all overgrown. But I can’t go up there all the time and access is extremely difficult now due to the presence of the boom. However, the low catches they are making in the new traps speak for themselves. This is also just what we know also – there are almost certainly other issues that are not apparent. Every time that you look for issues at the ESB dams you find problems – whether it is fish counters, silver eel trap and transport, or elver traps. But these are only the issues we can see from outside.

The ESB missed all the large elver runs in the last 10 years. There were large elver runs on the Shannon in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and an insufficient elver trapping effort at the ESB dams meant that the opportunity to maximise recruitment was lost. In May 2014 when I exposed that the elver traps on the Lower River Shannon were not operating, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) helped the ESB to cover this up. In the Standing Scientific Committee Report on eels that year it was claimed that the traps were “down for two hours maintenance. It is incredible that this lie made it into a national report and this shows that IFI are not independent. The ESB are still not operating an effective trap and transport programme for elvers all these years later.

The so-called Shannon Fisheries Partnership are also not providing independent monitoring. They don’t represent me and are also helping the ESB cover up its failures. You have to ask why can’t people who are interested in fish migration and solving the problems on the Lower River Shannon be involved? The ESB were willing to take my free consultancy advice but are not willing to allow me to have any input into monitoring the operation of the elver traps.