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|Posted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:58 am Post subject: Saving the eel in Kingston-upon-Thames
|19th April 2010
Saving the eel in Kingston-upon-Thames
Environment Agency staff have installed an ‘eel pass’ in a weir along the Hogsmill River, Kingston-upon-Thames to give eels a helping hand in their fight for survival.
In January, Parliament stepped in to save the critically endangered European eel. Under new legislation, the Environment Agency can require eel passes and screens to be installed on all rivers and streams where barriers such as weirs or sluice gates prevent eels from moving upstream to grow or downstream to spawn.
In the past 20 years, the eel has seen a dramatic decline across Europe. The number of baby eels entering our rivers has fallen by 95 per cent because of a range of factors including loss of habitat and barriers to migration. However other aquatic wildlife, such as salmon and otters, has thrived thanks to the Environment Agency’s continuous work on water quality, which has improved for the 19th year in a row - the best it has been for over a century.
Starting at a couple of hundred pounds, eel passes can be cheap to install and have already proved successful in giving the species access to new stretches of water.
Staff from the Operations Delivery and Fisheries Teams from the Environment Agency researched the area and found the Hogsmill River to be an ideal place to build an eel pass.
Alan Everest, Team Leader for Operations Delivery said: "Helping eels to travel across to habitats they would otherwise be deprived of gives them the best possible chance to grow and mature before making their incredible journey back to the Sargasso Sea."
The eel passes consist of ‘Bristle Boards’ that have three different densities of bristle. The tightest at the bottom help the smallest elvers, with mid size above that and the least dense along the top which is secured along the riverbed to the wall of the weir. This structure forms a type of ladder to slow the flow of water coming down the river over the weir and allow the eels to negotiate the obstacle which would otherwise prevent their journey up river.
The eels are thought to take up to three years migrating as larvae from the Sargasso Sea to European rivers, where they spend up to 20 years before making the 4,000-mile return journey across the Atlantic to spawn and die.