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AFBI Eel Fishery Research Programme gets a Boost

08 August 2014

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute’s (AFBI) eel research programme in conjunction with the Lough Neagh Fisherman Co-operative Society Ltd (LNFCS), is happy to announce the award of the Fr Oliver P Kennedy bursary for eel science research to PhD student Mr Conor Dolan.

In recognition of this direct funding of Academic Research needs by Industry, The Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB) subsequently awarded a Department of Education and Learning (DEL) Scholarship to Conor to assist with the completion of his PhD under the supervision of Dr Derek Evans of AFBI and Professor Paulo Prodohl of QUB.

Since the 1980’s the population of the European eel (A. anguilla) has declined throughout Europe and North Africa with the stock now considered by international experts as being outside safe biological limits for population survival.

Man-made impacts including overfishing, barriers to migration, pollution and human-introduced parasites and environmental changes are believed responsible for the eels demise.

Dr Derek Evans of AFBI’s freshwater fisheries programme said: “This award recognises the need for high quality research to support the continued proven sustainability of the Lough Neagh eel fishery for the benefit of the eel fishermen and the wider economy of Northern Ireland. Its findings will be of immense value to the wider scientific community studying eel stocks.

Understanding the biology of young eels before they reach fishable size is a key element of forecasting future catches, and this project will add significantly to the AFBI’s DCAL funded programme of eel stock assessment.

To date the vast majority of eel research across Europe has examined female biology so this PhD will focus on the male and comes on the back of a research call by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) for such gender specific studies.”

Mr Pat Close, Chairman of the LNFCS said: “Fr Kennedy played a central role in establishing LNFCS and worked tirelessly for over 50 years to ensure that fishermen’s interests were protected and promoted.

"The provision of this bursary is intended to celebrate the unique contribution made by Father Kennedy to the eel industry both locally and internationally.

"We look forward to continuing the long-standing collaboration with AFBI & DCAL in the scientific study of eels ensuring that the EU-approved Eel Management Plan for Lough Neagh is both maintained and enhanced and that the sustainable fishery on Lough Neagh continues for generations to come”.

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