By Bryan T. Smyth
27 March 2017
Collaboration between fishermen and scientists focuses on conservation
Cork fisherman Oran Roche was celebrated recently at an Information Day hosted by Inland Fisheries Ireland in Athlone. Oran, from Clashmore, Co. Cork has been working with Inland Fisheries Ireland in the delivery of a Scientific Eel Fishery in the Munster Blackwater River. He is part of a group of eleven fishermen working across different areas in Ireland who are involved in the initiative. Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Information Day for the fishermen aimed to provide an update on the progress made through the Scientific Eel Fisheries and to recognise the contribution of the fishermen to date.
Oran has been fishing for over almost 30 years. His father, Tommy, fished for eels many years ago and it was from his father and uncles that he learnt the trade originally.
Since last year, Oran has provided support to Inland Fisheries Ireland by helping them fish for eel in a conservation focused manner with a view to gathering necessary data which will help protect the species into the future. Oran’s local expertise and historical knowledge around eel in the area has provided invaluable support to Inland Fisheries Ireland during the set up and delivery of a Scientific Eel Fishery.
The organisation 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 Research and Development said: “Oran Roche, along with the other commercial fishermen involved in this project, has historical and local knowledge around eel habits in the area. In many cases, this has been passed down through the generations. 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.