The Heritage & Traditions of Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Society

Archaeological evidence of eel fishing on Lough Neagh dates back thousands of years. The role of Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society Ltd., dates from the mid-1960s while evidence of commercial fishing can be traced back a few hundred years.

Prior to the establishment of Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society, the management and exploitation of Lough Neagh Eels was controlled by a consortium of off-shore interests. The then owners’ main interest was in harvesting silver eels and they were therefore not prepared to permit significant fishing in the lake for yellow eels since that would be reflected in the silver eel catch in due course.

In 1963 a group of forward-thinking fishermen under the guidance and leadership of the late Father Oliver Kennedy, decided that there had to be some means by which fishermen and their families would benefit in a more meaningful way from one of the greatest natural resources on these islands. So was born Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society, which is one of the longest surviving co-operatives in Ireland. In 1965 they acquired a 20% stake in the controlling group and just seven years later in 1972 gained outright control of the company and their own destiny.

loughneagheelsIn those early days many fishermen and members of their extended families were prepared to give up some of their meagre returns to help the Society establish new markets and conduct the business on their behalf. In return those people became the shareholders who would take the Society forward to the point we are at today some 50 years on.

From the very beginning, the Society’s objective has been to manage the eel industry on Lough Neagh in such a way as to provide a reasonable livelihood for the fishermen currently involved but also to build a sustainable and viable future for succeeding generations of fishermen.

In order to secure a future for the industry the Society has operated self-determined policies and measures aimed at the conservation of stocks for 50 years. Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society is the largest wild eel fishery in Europe.

Throughout Europe, there has been a decline in natural elver recruitment as far back as the mid- 1980s, the reasons for which are still unclear but are believed to be related to a number of factors, including climate change, hydro power installations, parasites and pollution. The basis of the Society’s future management strategy with regard to meeting the requirements of Council Regulation EC No 1100/2007 is incorporated in the Eel Management Plan for the Neagh/Bann River Basin District. The approval of this EMP is essentially an endorsement of the policies and procedures adopted by the Society over many decades. Restocking is clearly a key element of the approved Neagh/Bann EMP and is aimed at enhancing the recovery of stocks.

The award of PGI status to ‘Lough Neagh Eel’ is regarded by the local industry as a significant accolade recognising the heritage, tradition and authenticity of what are regarded as the best quality eels available in Europe. The Society has marketed its produce in continental Europe for 50 years and has developed a reputation for quality and reliability of supply. The main markets are in Holland, Germany and England.

The EU Management Plan identifies the eel industry on Lough Neagh as a responsibly managed fishery and as one which makes a significant contribution to conservation. PGI status identifies Lough Neagh Eel as an authentic, unique product with a rich heritage and tradition. The discerning customer can therefore identify with the brand on a number of fronts; – quality, sustainability and tradition.


Local Chefs love cooking with Eels. Paula McIntyre’s delicious Lough Neagh Fresh Eel with Soda Farl, buttered radish, roast & picked onion