Glass eels in the Shannon estuary

These young eels (glass eels and elvers) were caught during experimental dip netting work we undertook during early April 2014 in the Shannon estuary area (Ferry Bridge, River Maigue estuary). During the dip netting it was apparent that juvenile eels were very common at this site. We also observed significant glass eels / elver activity in the main Shannon estuary downstream of Limerick City, and also in other tributaries of the Shannon estuary including the River Deel and Ballinacurra Creek.

It is clear that there is a major run of juvenile eels again this year in the Shannon estuary area. We also observed evidence of similarly large runs in the Shannon estuary area last year. Media reports suggest that this is the third year of a major upturn in the numbers of young eels arriving to European shores.

The Shannon estuary has huge potential for the development of a glass eel fishery. It is quite likely that glass eels and elvers to stock all the freshwater habitats in Ireland could be sourced from this estuary alone. There is no reason why a glass eel / elver fishery to rival that on the River Severn can’t be developed here. There is also no reason why, once the eels fisheries of the Shannon are stocked with juvenile eels and hydropower mortality in the catchment is minimised, that sustainable eel fishing cannot resume.

Inland Fisheries Ireland and the ESB operate elver ‘index’ traps on the Lower Shannon and also on the River Maigue. These traps have failed to indicate the current upturn in glass eel numbers which is now ongoing for three years. It is clear that these index traps are ineffective and are only measuring IFI’s and ESB’s inability to run traps like this and catch glass eels and elvers. This year has been another wasted opportunity to secure the future of the European eel in Ireland by intercepting these large glass eels runs and using them to restock the Shannon lakes and other eel habitats in Ireland. Will there be a fourth year of major glass eel runs to the Shannon estuary?

Also, if you have any queries in relation to eels or eel management please do not hesitate to contact us.

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