The Environment Agency helped WWT Arundel Wetland Centre move the eel population of their main lake into the freshwater ditch system on the wetland reserve this past week. The eels were netted then transported down the path in barrels to their new home.
The EA took the opportunity to measure and weigh the eels as part of their research to save this protected species. WWT Arundel is moving the eel population in preparation for the draining of the main lake to de-silt and re-landscape it for the Arun Riverlife project. This will restore the area to a managed river floodplain, providing habitat for British wildfowl, wading birds and water voles.
The Environment Agency grants licenses for eel netting. Damon Block, of the EA Fisheries & Biodiversity Department said the EA was happy to grant the WWT a netting license and to help WWT Arundel with the project.
He said: “As this is conservation project we are much more approachable to help with that kind of thing, because we are trying to save them (eels) rather than put them on tables.”
A team from the Environment Agency installed long, cylindrical ‘fyke’ nets along the edges of the lake to catch the eels. These nets have cone shaped entrances that the naturally curious eels explore and enter, but they have trouble finding their way out again.
Damon Block, with The Environment Agency Fisheries & Biodiversity department went onto say: “It’s the first opportunity I’ve had to come into a closed system like this to trap eels. Eels can get in anywhere, even crossing land to get into isolated bodies of water. I was surprised at the numbers in here, in all sorts of size classes - from juvenile green eels to giant silvers.”
The eel population in the UK has experienced a worrying decline since the 1970s. The decline may be due to pollution, commercial fishing and diseases but a major reason is thought to be small changes in ocean currents are affecting the eel migration.
European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea between Bermuda and the Bahamas. The eels migrate to the UK in a larval state, swimming about 5 miles an hour on ocean currents. To migrate the 3,400 miles to the UK usually takes the tiny eel larvae over a year. When the larvae reach the UK they change into the "glass eel" stage and enter freshwater system through tributaries on the spring tides in April and May. In freshwater they darken, becoming elvers that migrate upstream during the flood tides. Elvers can even travel short distances over damp grounds and wriggle up vegetation on short waterfalls during their migration. The elvers grow into eels that live near the bottom of rivers and lakes. After 9-16 years they mature into silver eels and attempt to swim back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.
More about Arundel WWT
Published 21st October 2012
All news stories