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Eel To Make Comeback

Eels Breeding & genetics +2 more

UK - A critically endangered fish which has seen its numbers sink dramatically over the past 30 years has been passed a lifeline by the Environment Agency.

Four new eel passes have been created on the River Nene, River Steeping, Kyme Eau and River Glen to help the creatures migrate around flood defence structures that would otherwise block their path.

The passes have been installed at Castor Mill, near Alwalton, Cambridgeshire, and at three sites in Lincolnshire: Havenhouse Tidal Sluice, on the River Steeping near Skegness, Bottom Lock on the Kyme Eau near Chapel Hill, and the River Glen at Surfleet Seas End, near Surfleet.

The specially designed structures will help young eels elvers swim upstream of the obstacles and also allow mature eels to migrate back to the sea. A further pass has been installed on the River Witham at Bargate Sluice, Lincoln, and there are plans to put one on the Maxey Cut, near Peterborough.

Caroline Tero, Fisheries, Recreation and Biodiversity Team Leader at the Environment Agency, said: Impassable river barriers have contributed to the recent drop in the numbers of eel and elver seen in our rivers. Barriers can lower the survival rate of juvenile eels moving upstream and also prevent adult eels from returning to the sea to spawn.

The new passes increase the habitat available to the eels and make it much simpler for them to get around the man-made barriers. European eels have suffered a massive decline in numbers since the 1980s. It is thought the number of young eels entering rivers in the UK and the rest of Europe has fallen by 95 per cent.

The eel passes, which cost 11,000, were funded by Defra as part of the Environment Agencys Eel Management Plan.

The Eel Management Plan aims to prevent a further reduction in eel numbers by enabling more of the creatures to mature and leave the rivers to return to their spawning ground in the Sargasso Sea. Measures being taken include better regulation of eel fishing, installation of eel passes and screening at water intakes, improving habitats, re-stocking and increased monitoring.

Currently, eels and elvers support economically important fisheries in the UK and Europe.

Ms Tero said: The eel is of ecological and economic importance at all stages of its incredible life. It is vital that action is taken now to prevent their possible extinction. By installing passes on rivers in Lincolnshire and elsewhere, we can help these critically endangered creatures fulfil their lifecycle and support the environment and economy.