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European report on Eel protection good news for Lough Neagh

15 November, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed a report which seeks to protect Europe's declining eel population. Ms de Brún said that the report dovetails well with the considerable efforts that have been made on Lough Neagh to conserve stocks and protect the future of the industry.

Ms de Brún made her comments before supporting the own initiative report on 'the development of a Community Action Plan for the recovery of European eel'. The report was compiled by Albert Jan Maat MEP.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"The sensible proposals contained within Mr Jan Maat's report will be welcomed wholeheartedly by those who wish to see this industry protected in a sustainable way that takes into account the need to protect the environment.

Over the years, eel stocks throughout the European Union have dropped dramatically. This is bad news not only for those who run commercial wild eel fisheries, but also the very existence of the species.

The Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative has taken great care over the years to manage the fishery in such a way as to conserve stocks, avoid pollution and protect the future of the industry. This has included the purchase of elvers once it became clear that natural recruitment was in serious decline. Unfortunately this approach was not always matched elsewhere leading to a crisis in the European eel population.

"I particularly welcome the proposals in today's report, therefore that the European Commission should carry out research into 'pollution as a factor in assessing possible causes of mortality among eel stocks in freshwater waterways', and that policy on the export of eels from Europe should be adjusted in such a way that enough glass eels are available for natural migration. These proposals should have a positive knock on effect within my own constituency.

"I want to pay particular tribute to the efforts which have been made by the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative Society to conserve eel stocks in the Lough. I presented a document on this issue to Commissioner Borg when he visited my constituency last week. My colleague Martin McGuinness MP has also met with the British Government to put the case for direct aid to support the sustainable development of stocks in Lough Neagh. Maintaining sustainable stock levels is vital to providing for the long-term future of eel fishing.

"My hope is that this report will help to cement the need for the conservation of the eel population in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe." ENDS

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