“Two European countries, Ireland and Norway, have already banned all eel fisheries.” – redux

Despite a brief flurry of activity by Sinn Féin in February this year, around the Northern Ireland Executive Minister with responsibility for regulating Eel Fisheries, Sinn Féin’s Carál Ní Chuilín’s sudden “refusal to support European proposals for a unilateral suspension of eel-fishing”, the Minister’s promised Assembly statement on the issue never materialised.  That’s possibly because, at that stage, the proposal was only in a draft report [amendment 8] to the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries by rapporteur, Isabella Lövin, a Swedish MEP.

As it was that particular draft proposal didn’t make it past the committee stage.  One NI MEP, the DUP’s Diane Dodds, took part in the 18 June committee meeting, but the only local press release on the issue was released by another MEP, the UUP’s Jim Nicholson.  The report was adopted by the committee, however [16 votes to 9], and the amended proposals passed to the EU Parliament.  And, after a debate yesterday, which included this contribution from Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson, text here, the resolution was approved by 427 votes to 249, with 25 abstentions.  From the resulting European Parliament press release

Fresh legislation is urgently needed to save the European eel stock, which scientists report has declined by at least 95% in the past thirty years, says Parliament in a resolution voted on Wednesday. MEPs urge the European Commission to table a draft law by March 2014, including sanctions against EU member states that are slow to provide the data needed to assess the stock.

 “The eel is critically endangered and the member states are doing too little to save it. That is why the European Parliament calls on the Commission to present a new legislative proposal aimed at the recovery of European eel. The new law must close the loopholes in the current legislation which have led to the continued overfishing and unsustainable trade in eels”, said rapporteur Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA, SE).

MEPs ask the Commission to evaluate current restocking measures by 31 December 2013, paying special attention to how much they really contribute to eel recovery. Restocking, a key feature of national eel management plans, involves adding eel from another source to existing populations. The results of this evaluation must feed into the Commission’s new legislative proposal which must aim, “with high probability”, to achieve the recovery of the European eel stock, says the voted text.

Furthermore, Parliament also voted to oblige EU member states to report more often on the impact of eel stock management measures: once every two years instead of once every sixth year. Member states which do not comply with the reporting and evaluation requirements would be obliged to halve their eel fishing effort.

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  • FuturePhysicist

    Isn’t this a matter for Michelle O’Neill? How come the Culture Minister is involved? Something seems well you know at the Sinn Féin headquarters!

  • FuturePhysicist

    Seems it must come under “Leisure”

  • cynic2

    Think of it as a Catholic shipyard …..its oursuns’s so we will fish it until the last eel is gone then we will pay them a subsidy not to catch the dead eels

  • FuturePhysicist

    But Ireland is Catholic and Norway is Protestant. 😮

  • Pete Baker

    Focus gentlemen…

  • “the Minister’s promised Assembly statement [on 14 Feb] on the issue never materialised”

    The Minister answered a priority written question dated 25 Feb following her meeting with stakeholders on 21 Feb:

    I chaired a meeting of local stakeholder interests at Ballyronan on 21 February in view of the potential threat facing the eel fishery in Lough Neagh. The meeting was attended by the DARD Minister, Lough Neagh commercial fishery stakeholders consisting of representative from the Toome Eel Fishery, Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co operative Society Ltd, Lough Neagh Partnership, local fishermen, a local MLA and representatives from 5 District Councils.
    There has been a proposal for the unilateral suspension of eel fishing across Europe. I am not prepared to consider any changes without independent scientific evidence, an appropriate equality impact assessment, consultation with all stakeholder interests and appropriate compensation for fishermen affected during any proposed suspension. I have written to the Minister responsible for Fisheries in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to express my concerns and to ensure that these views are conveyed to the European Parliament.
    – See more at: Assembly written answers

  • The Hansard Report on 7 May contains the following:

    Ms Ní Chuilín: I thank the Member for his question. A draft report presented to the European Parliament’s fisheries committee proposed measures to ban commercial eel fishing in view of the decline in European eel stocks. In view of the threat posed to the Lough Neagh eel fishery and the potential impact on the local community, I acted quickly and decisively to protect the interests of our local fishery. I made it absolutely clear at the time and I reiterate the position that I will not consider any proposals for the recovery of EU eel stocks without appropriate and independent scientific evidence. In addition, I will insist on an equality impact assessment, full consultation with stakeholder interests and appropriate compensation from Europe for eel fishermen affected during any proposed suspension. ..

    We look forward to working with the co-operative on the future development of the Lough Neagh fishery because this is an activity that has been passed down from generation to generation, as the Member will know as it is in his constituency. ..

    Mrs D Kelly: I live along the lough shore, Minister, and I welcome your refusal to implement any blanket ban that might be proposed in Europe for eel fishing.

  • cynic2

    “I chaired a meeting of local stakeholder interests at Ballyronan on 21 February”

    Who represented the eels? They are local and have interests

    But never mind! ” A local MLA” was present and it was all kept in house and nice and quiet with a good (but hopeless) demand for money for the fishermen to bribe them to stop killing the last of the eels.

    Dont worry about it Peter. Its called natural selection. In the end it will win out. They eat or sell all the eels. The ells die out. The fisheries go bust. The fishermen become extinct too because their leaders weren’t smart enough to see the big picture

    Horse mussels and frites anyone?

  • Pete Baker

    More trees, Nevin?

    Have you stopped looking through the Assembly archive? You should.

    Because you’ll not find a Ministerial statement to the Assembly on the issue there.

    And, no. Answers to written, or oral, questions, are not the same thing. Particularly when all the minister is doing is repeating what she said in her first press release on 14 Feb.

    Responding to a request for DCAL’s position, Minister Ní Chuilín has today written to DEFRA in London stating that she will not consider any such proposals without:

    additional independent scientific evidence;
    a full Equality Impact Assessment under s.75(1) of the NI Act 1998;
    full consultation with all stakeholders; and,
    appropriate compensation packages for all those affected in the event of any suspension.

    Minister Ní Chuilín is writing to the North’s three MEPs and will be making a statement to the Assembly next week.

    And as the Minister said later the same day [14 Feb]

    “It would not be appropriate to make any further detailed public comment in advance of making my Assembly statement next week.”

    A statement that never materialised. But I shouldn’t have to explain the difference to you…

    Should I?

  • Boglover

    Worth having a look at the Assembly briefing note at http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/researchandlibrary/2010/13610.pdf which states;
    Eel Fishing Regulations 2010
    DCAL, under the powers of the Fisheries Act (NI) 1996, plans to introduce a Statutory Rule which will bring the terms of the European Eel Regulation (EC) No1100/2007 into force in Northern Ireland.
    The EU regulation requires member states to introduce Eel Management Plans (EMP) for each eel river basin within their region. Northern Ireland is home to three such basins – North West, Neagh Bann and North East. The EMP to be introduced will have the following impact:
    >The Lough Neagh Bann catchment, Europe’s largest wild eel fishery, will continue to operate at current levels, which have been judged sustainable. The fishery will be subject to close regulation and monitoring.
    >The Lough Erne fishery, part of the North West catchment area, has been judged unsustainable. As such commercial fishing in the area will cease. The 17 commercial fishermen who hold a license to fish for eels in Lough Erne will have an opportunity to tender for contracts to catch and transport eels for conservation.
    >The North East basin contains no eel fisheries and will not be affected.

    In short, the regulations will lead to the cessation of eel fishing (excluding fishing for conservation) in all areas other than Lough Neagh and named weirs of the lower River Bann.

    As to fishing, it is prohibited to kill coarse fish (including eels) in the Foyle and Carlingford area waters (with the exception of pike which have special regulations). All such coarse fish and eels caught must be carefully handled and returned alive and unharmed to the water. However, DCAL, which administers the remaining NI fishing waters, makes no mention re eels in their regulations.

    In this case, there is as yet no over-arching EU requirement that NI could be infracted against, but this will change if a Regulation were to come forward next March, but even then Member States will be given time to implement any requirements. The real issue is whether the L Neagh fishery is “sustainable” by importing glass eels from elsewhere.

    More generally, NI has too many government departments, each vulnerable to single issue pressures from small groups of individuals. They find it almost impossible to produce solutions that are truly sustainable; i.e. that balance social, environmental and economic pressures.

  • “A statement that never materialised.”

    Quite right, Pete! You missed/overlooked the support from the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly. I thought that was a point worth making but I’ll leave it to others to access its value.

    “More generally, NI has too many government departments, each vulnerable to single issue pressures from small groups of individuals.”

    Boglover, it also allows one department to pass the buck to another 🙂

  • Boglover

    Not half, Nevin. That’s effectively what happened over the Strangford Lough infraction, when DARD denied there was a problem of damage to the mussels.

  • Delphin

    It would appear that the Toome eel fishery may well be sustainable and by importing of young eels into the catchment the cooperative is actually helping European eel numbers . Details in the link below.

    There are indeed too many government departments involved in this kind of thing. DARD, DECAL and DoE along with their tame little poodle the NI Environment Agency. This really should be regarded as a job creation scheme for senior civil servants, as the arrangement appears to serve no other purpose.
    A more pressing issue is the inability of DARD/DoE to come up with a recovery plan for Strangford Lough and its famous horse mussel beds. Here local scallop fishermen, apparently aided and abetted by Diane Dodds, are holding things up.
    In contrast to the decline in eel numbers there is strong scientific evidence pointing to the unsustainability of current fishing methods.
    But who gives a toss about eels and horse mussels when there important things like flags,marching, and riding about on the front of jeeps going on.