EDF Energy has joined forces with conservation groups in the Trent Valley to help migration for the critically endangered European eel. At Idle Valley Nature Reserves near Retford, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has worked with Aquatic Control Engineering to install an ‘eel pass’ to help baby eels to migrate from the River Idle into the Belmoor Lake area of the Nature Reserve.
And the Canal and River Trust has employed FishTek Consulting who are installing an eel pass on Hazelford Weir on the River Trent, between Nottingham and Newark. Both projects were organised by the Sustainable Eel Group.
These are part of a huge programme of work which is underway across Europe to help restore eel populations by restoring wetlands and removing barriers to the eels’ migration routes. Eel passes are a bit like ladders — they help eels to swim over migration barriers.
The River Trent has many weirs along its length, often to provide locks or to feed the canal for boat navigation. These weirs, being walls in rivers, are serious barriers to migration for fish such as salmon, trout, lampreys and eels.
The European Eel, once thriving across Europe and the UK, is currently classified as ‘critically endangered’ as their numbers have declined by about 90% over the past 40 years. This is due to a number of reasons — mainly climate change, barriers to migration, destruction of wetland habitat, disease and illegal fishing and illegal exports to Asia.
Eels are an important part of the water environment. They feed on water bugs and dead and decaying animals — helping to recycle nutrients. They are also important food for otters and birds such as herons and egrets.