Wednesday 31 August 2011
The European Eel has had a difficult few decades and numbers are right down from their 1970’s peak. It is such a mysterious creature that the cause and effect of its decline are still not understood.
So serious is its plight that Brussels has created an Eel Regulation and countries across Europe are taking dramatic steps to reverse the decline. Here in the UK the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) has been formed to accelerate the recovery of the eel. This organisation brings together eel specialists from all walks of life into one body that is determined to make a difference. ‘It is sadly an all too rare an occurrence for Conservation, Science, Policy and Commercial interests to unite around a common agenda but the eel has the magic to do this’ says Andrew Kerr the SEG Chairman.
The young transparent glass eels have been caught in small hand nets on the Severn and carefully grown on for three months by UK Glass Eels – ‘they have grown threefold are now strong, active, pigmented and dark brown with a greatly increased chances of survival’ says Peter Wood (Vet Surgeon) who has conceived, funded and led the restocking project. He plans to work with the Environment Agency on a research programme stretching over 10’s of year to investigate eel growth rates in the wild and their overall survival rates leading to migration as silver eels back to the Sargasso Sea.
John Taylor from the Environment Agency in Wales is also investing heavily in the project he says that the EA are spending millions of pounds unblocking migratory pathways across the UK and here on this project they are dipping the eels in strontium as an aide to identification (stocked fish compared with wild ones) and that they will repair the ancient eel trap so that escapement of silver eels can be scientifically monitored.
The Wildlife Trusts of Wales have been central to the project and now plan to add local volunteer effort to monitoring. Julian Jones the Director of the local Wildlife Trust believes that saving the eel is primarily a conservation issue and SEG is really helping to create focus and energy on this problem on a truly European scale.
Richard Cooke of the Severn and Wye Smokery who has led the eels in the classroom programme says there is such ignorance about this wonderful creature and that he will continue to support this type of work and is hoping to extend the schools project to 100 in 2012.
SEG working with its partners and members will release the juvenile eels into Llangorse Lake on Wednesday 31st August 2011. BBC Autumn Watch will be filming for their current series.