Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Partnership Working at Cyfarthfa Park Lake, Wales, gives the Critically Endangered European Eel hope for the future

Conservation groups get together to give a new home to the critically endangered European Eel at Cyfarthfa Park Lake, Merthyr Tydfil.  

Media Release     26 July 2018

The South East Wales Rivers Trust has joined forces with Wales Environment Link and Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru to help protect critically endangered eels in Merthyr.  80 young eels (known as elvers) are being released into Cyfarthfa Park Lake.  Witnessing the release of the first 20 were Dawn Bowden, Welsh Labour Assembly Member, Gerald Lewis of Merthyr Borough Council and Trustees of Cyfarthfa Park.

 

The lake, and other waters in the upper river Taff, have had no eel population for over a hundred years, since multiple weirs were constructed on the Taff during the industrial revolution, blocking their upstream migration from the sea.  1.3 million similar barriers across rivers in Europe mean that the eel can only access 10% of the habitats it used to.  Numbers of the once common eel is reduced by 90 – 95% and is now classified as ‘critically endangered’.

The eels were sourced by the South East Wales Rivers Trust.  They were part of a programme of placing batches of 50 baby eels in fish tanks in 8 schools and 2 education centres – the Welsh Water Education Centre, Cilfynydd and the Millennium Centre, Taf Bargoed, where the eels for Cyfarthfa Park were raised. At the schools and centres, the pupils fed and looked after the eels for 3 months and learnt about the eel’s fascinating life cycle. Now bigger and stronger, the eels are ready to be stocked into their new home.

This is 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’ traditional migration routes.

Cyfarthfa Park is ideal habitat for eels. They will grow there, become part of the ecosystem and will migrate in 5 – 20 years to sea to spawn and continue the species.

Dawn Bowden, Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, said: “The eel is a fascinating fish that needs our help.  I am delighted to see how local conservation groups have worked together to educate our children and give eels a new home in Merthyr.”

Dawn Bowden AM, was made European Eel Champion this year, as part of the Species Champion project run by Wales Environment Link (WEL). WEL members – including Salmon & Trout Conservation Cymru – pair AMs up with endangered species in Wales so they can help recover and safeguard them. Dawn is part of a group of 37 other AMs in the project.

From left to right:
Tony Rees: South East Wales Rivers Trust;  Dawn Bowden: Wales Assembly Member (Eel Champion);  Richard Garner-Williams: Salmon & Trout Cymru);   David Bunt: Sustainable Eel Group

Eels are an important part of the water environment.  They feed on dead and decaying animals – helping to recycle nutrients.  They are also important food for otters and birds such as herons, egrets and bitterns.

European eels have an extraordinary life cycle.  They start as eggs in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda and spend 18 months floating on ocean currents towards the coasts of Europe and North Africa.  They enter rivers and lakes and spend anything from 5 to 20 years feeding and growing into adult eels. They then return to sea and swim 3000 miles for over a year back to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.

 

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