Eel Management Plan

The national plan describes a comprehensive programme of monitoring and evaluation of management actions and their implementation, and also a programme of eel stock assessment to establish a stock baseline, estimate silver eel escapement and monitor the impact of the management actions on the local stocks.

Eel Management

The eel fishery will remain closed until 2018. A full explanation for this decision is included in the documents below - Details of the Public Consultation and associated appendices.

Eel Consultation 2015

Earlier in 2015 Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) invited submissions from interested parties on the following reports:

These reports should be read in conjunction with the original report:

These reports include the latest research and management information on eels in Ireland compiled over the last three years and updates the status of the stocks. The management policy for eels in Ireland over the next three years will be determined from these reports and any relevant submissions received from interested parties.

Management Actions

There are four main management actions aimed at reducing eel mortality and increasing silver eel escapement in Irish waters. These are a cessation of the commercial eel fishery and closure of the market, mitigation of the impact of hydropower, including a comprehensive silver eel trap and transport plan, ensure upstream migration of juvenile eel at barriers and improve water quality including fish health and bio-security issues.

IFI and eel fishermen will be engaged in investigating possible diversification schemes for the former commercial fishermen.


Irish silver eel escapement from freshwaters expressed as a percent of historic production (EU target = 40%) ranges from 8% in the ShIRBD to 64% in the SWRBD. The national percent escapement is 24%.

Management actions described will contribute to achieving a recovery in recruitment in 90 years (assuming an equivalent EU wide action), thereby aiming to achieve the EU escapement target in less than that timeframe. It is imperative that equivalent EU-wide action is taken at this level so as not to diminish the impact of Ireland's contribution.

Management plan report

Standing Scientific Committee for Eel

Supporting documents

Current regulations

2012-2014 Executive Summary

In response to advice from ICES that the European eel was critically endangered the EU Council Regulation 11000/2007 for the recovery of the eel stock was created. Under this regulation Ireland compiled a National Eel Management Plan to conserve eel stocks in Ireland, within this plan was a list of monitoring objectives. The aim of the IFI eel monitoring programme is to improve our understanding of the state of the eel stock in Ireland and fulfil the objectives as outlined in the national management plan. As part of the regulation a review of the management plan is due every 3 years. Ireland submitted the first review in June 2012 covering the years 2009 – 2011. This report is an account of monitoring actions taken in the years 2012 – 2014.

Over the course of the 3 years an increase in recruitment has been observed in some locations around Ireland and in Europe as a whole. The latest advice from ICES indicates an increase from 5% in 2011 to 12% of historic levels in 2014. However it remains to be seen if this increase in recruitment is as a result of the management measures put in place since 2009 or is just natural variability in the recruitment indices. IFI plan to continue to monitor the index sites around the country over the coming years.

IFI have successfully reached all monitoring objectives as outlined in the National Management Plan for the reporting season 2012-2014. The EMP programme has strived to monitor the different life stages of the eel where possible (elver, yellow eel and silver eel). In order to determine the level of recruitment of eels within key locations a long term elver monitoring programme was enhanced. Six locations around Ireland are monitored from April to August using a ramp style trap. The traps catch a proportion of the elvers actively migrating into freshwater. The traps are fished consistently on an annual basis in order to record the general trend in recruitment. This data series recorded the general decline in recruitment over the last decade and it is anticipated that the extended data series will record any changes to the trend as a result of the management measures implemented in Europe.

To fulfill objective 2; estimate silver eel escapement, a research silver eel fishery was operated in the Fane catchment on the east coast of Ireland from 2012 to 2014. A mark recapture study has been used to determine the efficiency of the fishing site and to determine the level of escapement of silver eels from the catchment. Due to the presence of three silver eel locations on the west coast (Shannon, Erne and Burrishoole) a second east coast research silver eel fishery was set up in the Barrow catchment in 2014 on a pilot basis.  The Barrow is a large riverine dominated catchment in contrast with the other silver eel locations which all have large lake habitat. This location will enable us to investigate if there is a difference in the production and stock structure of silver eels escaping from river dominated habitat compared with lake dominated habitat. 

To fulfil the remaining monitoring objectives; surveys of the yellow eel population in key locations were carried out using different survey methodologies. An intensive fyke net survey was carried out in 5 lakes (Lough Key, Ramor, Oughter; Lough Derg and Lough Muckno). A semi quantitative eel specific catchment wide electrofishing survey was carried out in the Fane catchment and in the Kells Blackwater, a subcatchment of the Boyne River. This electrofishing study was to investigate the distribution of eels in the rivers surrounding 2 large lakes (Lough Muckno and Ramor). A fyke net survey was carried out in the freshwater and transitional waters of the River Barrow to compare with historical information available. The brackish lagoon in the South Sloblands was resurveyed due to the presence of historical information available from the Fisheries Research Centre.

To determine parasite prevalence and eel quality a number of eel samples are taken back to the laboratory for further analysis. Parasite prevalence by Anguillicola crassus ranges from 48% to 83% in lakes and 68% in the freshwater river section of the River Barrow. An investigation into the extent of the distribution of A. crassus in Ireland was undertaken using data from the Eel Monitoring Programme and Water Framework Directive (Becerra Jurado et al. 2014). The prevalence and intensity of infections across 234 sites and 93 river basins in Ireland comprising rivers, lakes and transitional waters were analysed. While only 32% of the river basins were affected by this nematode, they correspond to 74% of the total wetted area of Ireland. As a result of this work the group have focussed on monitoring the damage the infection causes to the swimbladder of eels using 2 methods, The Swimbladder Degenerative Index (SDI; Lefebrve et al. 2002) and the Length Ratio Index (LRI; Palstra et al. 2007). Initial results from Lough Key and Lough Muckno indicate that the swimbladders of the yellow eels examined have slight to moderate damage. This is encouraging as there are reports in Europe with eels recording severe damage to the swimbladders (Lefebrve et al. 2002) however this is preliminary data and needs to be continued in a number locations to get a clear picture of swimbladder health.

The average growth rate of yellow eels examined is 2.75 cm/yr. The yellow eels range in age from 4 – 45 years for female and from 4 – 23 years for males. The average growth rate for silver eels is 2.52 cm/yr. The age of silver eel sampled ranges from 8-50 years for female from 6-27 years for males.

Electrofishing data from 2 catchments have highlighted the importance of habitat in the distribution of eels within catchments. The absence and low density of eels within the rivers and streams around Lough Muckno and Lough Ramor have drawn attention to the danger in assuming eels are widespread and inhabit all waterbodies. This will have knock on effects on attempts to model eel production and escapement from non-surveyed catchments. The importance of habitat and quantifying habitat needs to be addressed in the future.

Preliminary evidence suggests that there could be a change in the stock structure of eels in our lakes and transitional waters. The absence of small eels in the fyke net catches in our lakes and the increase in small eels in the transitional waters compared with historical data suggests a potential reduction in the distribution of eels within our catchments with smaller eels remaining in the transitional waters for longer due to the improved conditions resulting from the decreased density of eels. This data is preliminary and needs to be further investigated.

The IFI monitoring programme has caught 5,042 yellow eels and measured 4,851 silver eels over the three years. Parasite prevalence and intensity and sex differentiation were recorded for 841 eels.  From the 6 years of data available (2009 – 2014) 2,057 eels have been aged and growth rates calculated. All of this information will be used to improve our knowledge of the state of the eel stock in Ireland and will be used to update the modelling of eel production and silver eel escapement from Ireland in compliance with the EU Eel Regulation (1100/2007).

As a result of the 6 years of monitoring it is proposed to concentrate work on Eel index catchments in order to determine the extent of eel distribution within catchments as a whole (transitional waters, rivers, lakes and tributaries). This will ensure an even spread of monitoring activities within each River Basin District for all life stages recorded and in all water body types. It is hoped that the data gathered under a long term index catchment monitoring programme will aid in the modelling of eel distribution, production and escapement in the future.

Eel Working Group

In 1976 a joint symposium between EIFAC and ICES was held in Helsinki to discuss Eel Research. As a result of that meeting a joint EIFAC/ICES working group on Eel was established in 1977 and they have been meeting annually ever since. The main aim of the Joint EIFAAC/ICES Working Group on Eels (WGEEL) is to report on the status of the European and American eel stocks and provide advice to support the development and implementation of EC Regulation No. 1100/2007 for eel stock recovery. The working group publish a report on their activities every year with detailed stock assessments and discussions on the state of the stock. The report also contains advice on standardising monitoring programmes across member states to ensure the best available data is evaluated, these programmes include monitoring eel catches at different life stages as well as the quality of eels in European waters. In November 2014 the working group held its first meeting with participation from General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) in Rome and is now the Joint EIFAAC/ICES/GFCM working group.

Joint EIFAAC/ICES/GFCM Working Group home page

The latest advice from ICES

‘The status of eel remains critical and ICES advises that all anthropogenic mortality (e.g. recreational and commercial fishing, hydropower, pumping stations, and pollution) affecting production and escapement of silver eels should be reduced to – or kept as close to – zero as possible.’

The latest advice from ICES is available here: