Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Lincolnshire rivers welcome 20,000 new eels

The River Lymn and surrounding waterways welcomed 20,000 new juvenile eels yesterday as part of a major UK initiative to help eels return to abundance.

Anthony Howarth, trustee of Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, releases hundreds of young eels into the R.Lymn

The Lincolnshire Rivers Trust and the Sustainable Eel Group released the young eels into the River Lymn, starting at Partney Weir, as part of a national campaign to increase eel populations in UK rivers and lakes.

(L to R): James Forrester, Snipe Dales Warden for the Lincs Wildlife Trust; Andrew Kerr of SEG; Anthony Howarth and Dr Lauren Tewson of the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust release young eels into the R.Lymn

Eel numbers have declined for many reasons in the last decade, including because they have struggled to bypass man-made barriers to reach important upstream habitats.

Efforts are now underway to correct this, and rivers in Lincolnshire will be central to European efforts to help eel populations. Other initiatives on the Lymn include the construction of eel passes by the Environment Agency to help eels on their crucial migration up and down the river, and other conservation projects led by the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust.

The SEG chairman introduces the baby eels to the Lincolnshire press

Partney Weir was the first of several releases in Lincolnshire. The juvenile eels were caught using traditional hand netting techniques on the River Severn in the late spring and bought by UK Glass Eels, based in Gloucester. They were housed and fed over the summer, and then donated for restocking into UK rivers.

Dr Lauren Tewson of Lincolnshire Rivers Trust discusses eel habitats with the BBC

The River Lymn and Steeping catchment areas were chosen as an “ideal” nursery habitat for the young eels to grow and develop in the next 15-20 years. After a national search, scientists from The Rivers Trust chose it for the unusual and important scientific characteristics created by the river’s source in the Lincolnshire Wold chalk and its subsequent flow through lowland fenland to the sea.

20,000 young eels prepare to leave Gloucester for a new home in Lincolnshire

Once mature, the eels will return via the North Sea to the Sargasso Sea in the Western Atlantic to breed and spawn.

Andrew Kerr, Chairman of Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) said: “With its new eel passes and increased stocks of young eels, the River Lymn will continue to be a crucial habitat for this amazing species. We hope the benefits will last for decades, and provide eels with a great environment to grow and develop before they embark on the 4000 mile long journey to breed.”

Dr Lauren Tewson and Anthony Howarth of the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust introduce young eels to wonderful habitat in the Lincolnshire fens


“Thanks to the partnership work of the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency, and UK Glass Eels, the River Lymn will now play a vital international role in helping the European eel return to abundance.”

The eels meet the media

Fast Facts about the UK restocking initiative in Lincolnshire:

  • The elver pass at Partney was installed last year by the Environment Agency. It allows elvers (juvenile eels) to negotiate the weir and reach the upper catchment.
  • Long-term eel management plans have been put in place across Lincolnshire and the whole of the UK in order to secure a positive future for this important species. Key partners include The Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Wildlife Trusts and land owners, as well as numerous other partners.
  • The young eels delivered to Partney were caught in the River Severn in the late spring. They were bought by UK Glass Eels, and have been housed and fed in a dedicated new facility in Gloucester for the last 3 months. The facility features the latest technologies to maximise survival, and eels from the Severn have some of the highest survival rates in the world.
  • The Environment Agency and partners are concentrating on improving passage for eel critical sites at tidal locations on the coast. The Lymn is one of the 3 rivers identified as high priority and project work will now be underway in the next 2 years to make the River Lymn passable for eels.

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