Close up microscope image of a glass eel.

Scientific Eel Fishery

The European eel is one of Ireland’s most interesting fish species and has an incredible life-cycle that involves phases both freshwater and saltwater. In 2016, Inland Fisheries Ireland set up a network of scientific eel fisheries in collaboration with former commercial eel fishers at the request of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR).

Improving our understanding

The programme focuses on index catchments that will be intensively monitored using a variety of sampling methods deployed in rivers, lakes and estuaries. We will also focus on different life stages of the eel, including young glass eels and older yellow eels and silver eels. Index catchments allow us to look at the interaction between eels and their environment, as well as to investigate their movements throughout or between different river systems.

Filling in the gaps

By collecting lots of detailed information at index catchments, we will be able to fill gaps in our knowledge about eel ecology. Statistical modelling techniques using detailed information will then help us to make predictions for other areas where we have less detailed information and allow us to monitor eel stocks across Ireland. 

International collaboration and stakeholder engagement

This work helps us to fulfil our obligations under European legislation and participate with other collaborators at an international level, such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Stakeholder involvement is a key component of this project, and we work with various eel fishers because of their local knowledge and expertise help us to undertake stock assessments using standardised methods.