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Endangered eels given a helping hand

Work has been completed to enable endangered eels to make their way up the River Trent as part of an epic 3,000-mile journey from Bermuda.

A group of men standing by a weir posing for camera

We've teamed up with the Environment Agency, EDF and Uniper to build a special eel pass to help the eels navigate their way over Stoke Bardolph Weir on the River Trent.

Our new eel pass

The European eel has an extraordinary life cycle. It starts as eggs in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and spends 18 months floating on ocean currents towards the coasts of Europe and North Africa. It enters rivers and lakes and spends anything from 5 to 20 years feeding and growing into adult eels before returning to complete the life cycle. Their amazing transatlantic journey is interrupted only when they come to obstructions, such as dams, weirs and lock gates.

These barriers are part of the reason that the European Eel, once thriving across Europe and the UK, is currently classified as ‘critically endangered'. Numbers of the eels, which have also been impacted by climate change, destruction of habitats and illegal fishing, have declined by around 90% over the past 40 years.

Restoring eel population

The new eel pass acts like a ladder enabling the eels to make their way over the weir. It follows one installed at Hazelford Weir in 2018. It's part of a huge programme of work under way across Europe to help restore eel populations by restoring wetlands and removing barriers to the eels' migration routes.

Funding for the eel pass came from EDF, and in collaboration with Uniper, the two energy companies have worked together to deliver this project. The project complies with Eel Regulations related to water abstraction, which takes place to support their business operations further down the River Trent.

Making an incredible journey

Richard Bennett, our heritage & environment manager, said: “We're so pleased to give the eels a helping hand as they make their incredible journey and enable them to extend their reach in our waterways right here in the East Midlands.

“Eels are such an important part of what makes our waterways so special. They feed on water bugs and dead and decaying animals – helping to recycle nutrients – and are also an important food source for some of our best loved species such as otters and herons.

“The River Trent provides vital habitats for so many species and this project will make it even more important as we hopefully see many more eels making their way up the river.”

An amazing engagement opportunity

Matt Buck, Fisheries Specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “The eel pass at Stoke Bardolph Weir will improve access for eels and enable them to reach habitats suitable for them to grow, which will increase their chances of returning to the sea to spawn in subsequent years. The initiative will also benefit local biodiversity and help to boost eel numbers.

“As well as re-opening rivers to fish migration and protecting ecologically important and sometimes endangered species like salmon, shad and eels - fish passes are an amazing opportunity to engage people with the river and reconnect them with the life within it.”

Andy Powell, Head of Thermal Generation at EDF, said: “We are very happy and honoured to have been involved in the construction of the new eel pass at Stoke Bardolph Weir. We have enjoyed working with Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and Uniper, who are all determined to support and improve the eel population. Hopefully our work together will make a measurable difference to this important conservation objective.”

Tom Kavanagh, Uniper Plant Manager at Cottam Development Centre and Killingholme Power Station, said: “We share our habitat and natural resources with many species, so it is a privilege to work with the Canal & River Trust, Environment Agency and EDF to deliver the new eel pass for European Eels on their amazing life journey. Through these collaborations we leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.”

Kingfisher in flight with small fish in its beak

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Last Edited: 11 November 2022

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