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News article created on 8 September 2015

East End eels get helping hand to complete 3,000 mile journey

Work begins this week on the River Lea in Hackney, to help endangered eels (Anguilla anguilla) set up home in London’s East End.

We are refurbishing the eel pass at Lee Bridge Road to enable the species to make their way around the weir on this part of the River, and continue their journey upstream.

All eels start their lives in the Sargasso Sea, 3,000 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean, before using ocean currents to journey to the estuaries and rivers of Europe, where they mature. Their epic route is interrupted only when they come to obstructions, such as dams, weirs and lock gates. Specially made passes are needed to help them navigate around the barriers.

The installation of the eel pass and monitoring of eels on the River is carried out in partnership between the Trust, Zoological Society of London and the Environment Agency. 

Chantal Dave, Canal & River Trust ecologist, said: “Eels are synonymous with the East End, albeit in their jellied form rather than for journeying thousands of miles and setting up home in our waterways. Every eel on the River Lea will have made this amazing journey, they’ll then live here for about 40 years, before returning to the Sargasso.

They are an endangered species, their population numbers have declined by 90 per cent or more since the 1970s, and there’s so much more we need to learn about them. Improving our eel pass can make a real difference, so we’re delighted to be getting this work completed.” 

George Horne, Environment Agency officer, said: “It’s great that thanks to the partnership working this pass will be put in place. Once it’s complete the elvers will have safe access upstream. With this particular pass being in place so far down the watercourse it plays a vital part in making sure elvers can reach upstream habitats, helping them along their way in completing their extraordinary and complex life cycle”.