Lough Neagh's eel industry 'vulnerable' outside European Union

Eel fishery at Toomebridge
Eel fishery at Toomebridge

The Lough Neagh eel industry could be harmed when Britain leaves the European Union, it has been claimed.

SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said the Lough's eel fishing industry was particularly vulnerable to the impact of Brexit.

“The industry is an important employer in the loughshore area and a vital part of the local economy," he said

“If Northern Ireland is forced to leave the EU by the Conservative Government in London the eel fishing industry at Lough Neagh faces a number of threats.

“The continued success of the Lough Neagh eel fishing industry depends on access to the European Single Market.

“Lough Neagh provides 16% of the EU’s total wild eel catch and 80% of the eels exported are traded through the Netherlands.

“In addition the essential restocking of the eel population in Lough Neagh involves the purchase of glass eels from Spain and France.

“A hard Brexit would see access to the European Single Market severely restricted with potentially devastating results for the Lough Neagh eel fishing industry.

“Under EU law the Lough Neagh Eel has Protected Geographical Status. If we are dragged out of the EU this protected status could be lost.

“The Lough Neagh eel fishing industry could also face renewed competition if the Government at Stormont, without the constraint imposed by the 2007 EU eel regulations, decided to re-open the Lough Erne eel fishery.

“In either a hard or soft Brexit the Lough Neagh eel fishing industry will face an uncertain future outside of the EU.

“The SDLP will continue to argue the case for the North to stay in the EU, but the British Government need to spell out what kind of Brexit they want to see.

“The Government at Stormont has a responsibility to get the answers the eel fishing industry at Lough Neagh needs to prepare for that future.”