Wild Eel Fishery: supporting local workers, conservation and sustainability
Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society Ltd. (LNFCS) was established in 1965 to represent the interests of local fishermen and by 1972 had acquired outright control of the company known as Toome Eel Fishery Ltd. The Co-operative manages the eel fishing rights on Lough Neagh which is home to the largest wild eel fishery in Europe, marketing approximately 350 tonne’s annually. The Co-operative also now owns the fishing rights to other species found in the lough which are collectively known as ‘scale fish’ and includes pollan, perch, roach, trout, bream and pike.
LNFCS has over 600 share-holding members the majority of whom are fishermen, retired fishermen or members of their extended families. The work of the Co-operative is led by its Board of Directors with the support of a 20-strong Management Committee elected by shareholders to help determine policies. The Society manages an industry within the Agri-food sector and is worth approx. £3 million annually to the local rural economy providing seasonal employment for about 200 fishermen.
Our Co-operative regulates authority to fish Lough Neagh’s waters and is responsible for the handling and marketing of the catch. Some 80% of our eels are exported to Holland and Germany where they are processed and retailed as a ‘high-end’ smoked product. The recent completion of new processing facilities at our site in Toomebridge has led to the launch of a new smoked product for the local market and further development work is on-going.
CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
The primary objective of the Society throughout its history has been the rational and sustainable exploitation of a unique, valuable, but ultimately finite resource. The conservation and sustainability of the resource is central to our policy making processes. The eel industry on Lough Neagh has a rich cultural heritage, a proven track record in conservation and a unique role to play in the future of the European eel industry in a challenging environment. During its existence LNFCS has marketed some 30,000 tonnes of Lough Neagh wild-caught eels and developed a reputation for the highest quality eels available anywhere. Our focus continues to be to provide a reasonable livelihood for the fishermen currently involved while securing the industry for future generations, protecting and promoting the unique culture heritage and traditions of previous generations of fishing families.
It is vital to the Lough Neagh fishing industry that it can continue to receive funding in support of its restocking programme and for other development work currently under consideration. Given our reliance on markets in continental Europe we will need support and assistance from Regional and National Government in establishing specific trade agreements post-Brexit to take account of existing international restrictions on trade in the species.
Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative
4 Bannside, Toomebridge, Antrim BT41 3SB
028 7965 0618