The fishermen, who are involved in IFI’s Scientific Eel Fisheries in different parts of the country, attended the event which aimed to provide an update on the progress made through these fisheries and to recognise the contribution of the fishermen to date.
In total, there are 11 fishermen involved in the initiative, with many experienced in fishing for eels over several years.
Since last year, they have provided support to IFI by fishing for eel in a conservation-focused manner with a view to gathering necessary data which will help protect the species into the future.
Their local expertise and historical knowledge around eels in their areaa has given invaluable support to IFI during the set up and delivery of the Scientific Eel Fishery.
IFI commenced the process of setting up a network of scientific fisheries for eel around Ireland in 2016. These scientific fisheries cover the different life stages — glass eel, elver, yellow and silver eel — and are distributed in key catchments around Ireland.
The purpose of the fisheries is to increase the knowledge around eels in Ireland ahead of the next EU review of this endangered species, and to inform the management of eel populations which are currently in decline.
Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of R&D at IFI, said: “This important partnership between eel fishermen and research has one shared objective: to improve our knowledge of the state of the eel populations and to ensure their conservation for future generations.
“Inland Fisheries Ireland appreciates the benefit of citizen science programmes such as this one which will preserve the heritage of eel fishing and at the same time deliver on the research requirements needed to report to the EU. I would like to recognise and thank all the fishermen involved for their support.”
Citizen science is growing in popularity and encompasses many different ways in which citizens who are non-scientists are involved in scientific research projects.
The involvement of fishermen in the Scientific Eel Fisheries plays an important role in respecting the tradition and heritage of eel fishing in Ireland. Many of the fishermen come from families where eel fishing has been practised across several generations with local expertise and knowledge passed down through the years.