Brexit threat to eel fishing

Mid Ulster District Council will be doing “all within its power to support” the local fishing industry, in particular Lough Neagh Eels.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 2:01 pm
25.08.15. Picture by David Fitzgerald/DGF Photography **IMAGE FREE TO USE** Lough Neagh gold: Northern Irish eels a special resource The history of the area may be steeped in folklore but Lough Neagh's most compelling story comes from an eel fishery situated on the banks of the Lower Bann River where a centuries old industry farms, processes and exports one of Northern Ireland's few protected resources using traditional, sustainable methods. The River to Lough Festival is back promising a festival of fun this August bank holiday weekend in Toome with the chance to taste the world renowned Lough Neagh Eel. The Eel fishery opens its doors to the public for the second year on Saturday 29th August.

Sinn Féin Councillor Dominic Molloy was speaking after a meeting with representatives from Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society and the Fisheries Division.

Councillor Molloy chairs the council’s Brexit Working Group, and welcomed hearing from Mr Pat Close of the Co-operative Society who briefed committee members of the concerns they have of the potential impact of Brexit on the industry.

Councillor Molloy said: “It is now clear to us the very real threat not only to the future business of the Co-operative but to the protective measures it regulates to ensure conservation and recovery of European eel stocks, not to mention the skills handed down through generations of families along the Loughshore.

“Lough Neagh Eel was awarded PGI Protected Geographical Indication status in 2011 – similar protection as Parma Ham, Champagne etc - but as a result of Brexit that protection is at serious risk.

“Of the 300 tonnes of eels sold out annually, 80% goes into European customers in Holland and Germany, markets which are at serious risk for the future.

“Add to that the growing market for the loughs indigenous scale fish – Pollan, Dollaghan the value to the local economy is over £3m annually with mainly part-time income for over 300 people.”

He explained that Mid Ulster Council had “taken on” to press at various levels of government what support will be available to the industry locally.

Councillor Molloy said members had also expressed an interest in wishing to attend the next meeting of the Co-operative with Fisheries Division at this “undoubtedly worrying time” for all involved.

Lough Neagh is home to Europe’s largest wild eel fishery and supports dozens of families who earn a living from its waters. Most of the catch is sent to Holland.

It is managed by the Co-operative which is concerned that the industry could collapse if the UK leaves Europe with no deal at the end of the month.