Families refused eel fishing licenses for Lough Neagh take campaign to Stormont

Fishermen working on Lough Neagh
Fishermen working on Lough Neagh

A campaign highlighting the plight of fishing families who have been refused licenses to catch eels on Lough Neagh has reached Stormont.

Lough Neagh United Fishermen said the group have spoken to a number of parties, ministers and MLAs in the corridors of power and that some have “promised to examine the issue”.

Glass eels

Glass eels

“Justice Minister David Ford said he was sympathetic to their plight,” a spokesmen for LNUF explained. “He is going to contact the Department of Culture, Arts (DCAL) regarding the issue.”

“We knew we had to reach people of influence and it seems the only way our campaign will be listened to,” they went on.

“We are all members of the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society Ltd which issues the eel permits, but we can’t understand why our families can’t access the licenses or use a licence that was previously owned by a family member.”

They said UKIP leader David McNarry MLA said he was also willing to “pursue your case for a dormant permit”.

However, the families claimed Mr McNarry warned that involvement in the issue was “likely to open a hornet’s nest”.

A spokesperson for the LNUF said the Green Party, DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, NI21, Alliance, and London Labour Party have also reacted positively to their plight.

The Mid Ulster Mail reported this week that eel licenses had been given to non-shareholders of Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative, while shareholders who wanted access to their families’ licenses were denied permits for eel fishing.

Co-operative chair Pat Close said they hadn’t met the required criteria for a boat owners licence but that the fishery would consider them for helpers licenses.