The weather shone on us this week as we commenced the 2019 glass eel stocking on Lough Neagh. The glass eels were air freighted into Newtownards Airfield to ensure that they arrived in good condition, to begin their new life in the waters of Lough Neagh. There they will live wild, feeding on natural substrates and producing some of the best quality eels in Europe.
Watch how these baby eels (approximately 1 year old) move energetically through the unusually calm waters of Lough Neagh https://youtu.be/dXzIUyJTeac
The work of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society involves securing a sustainable future for the fishermen and others who make a living from the industry. The application of a suite of conservation measures contributing to the recovery of the European Eel stock is an integral part of LNFCS work. The Eel Management Plan (EMP) for the Neagh/Bann River District forms the basis of LNFCS’s future strategy. The EMP for Neagh/Bann River Basin was endorsed by the European Union in 2009 and regular monitoring confirms continuing compliance with EU targets and conservation objectives. In fact, the conservation measures used by LNFCS for many decades are seen as a blueprint of good practice and have now been adopted by other EU River Basin Districts across Europe.
A key element of this strategy involves the glass eel supplementary stocking programme. Glass eels are sourced mainly from areas in the UK which have identified surplus stocks. Stocking of glass eels was first implemented by LNFCS in 1984, following a very significant decline in the elver natural recruitment in the mid-1980s, experienced all across Europe. In the past 30 years more than 100 million glass eels have been released into Lough Neagh, in addition to the natural recruitment which has continued albeit at much reduced levels.
Lough Neagh and the Lower River Bann has scientifically proven and compliant levels of silver eel escapement. European stocks have also benefitted from the stocking programme on Lough Neagh through the higher numbers of fish escaping to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.