Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Development of habitat improvement strategy

Project Proposal

  • Create a conservation strategy with Sustainable Eel Group partners that identify habitat projects, which offer the most potential for improvement of eel escapement in England & Wales. This will sit below the River Basin level Eel Management Plans and will identify the biggest wins without compromising the possibility for opportunistic projects as and when they appear. Plan will be structured in the same way as the Eel Management Plans, on a River Basin District basis, but will also offer priorities on a national basis, which may inform a strategic funding bid. Key habitats to be identified and mapped include coastal and lowland wetland reserves, large natural and man-made stillwaters, river and drainage networks with simple connectivity issues e.g. one or two impassable barriers giving widespread access to habitat rather than extensively disconnected catchments.
  • Liaise with regional Eel Management Plan Implementation Groups (EMPIGs), regional EA eel champions, Rivers Trusts, Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Natural England, Wetland & Wildfowl Trust, Inland Drainage Boards, Crown Estates and other stakeholders who manage large areas of potential eel habitat.
  • Present plan to potential Biodiversity Action Plan funders as a strategic opportunity e.g. Landfill Tax operators, Esmee Fairbairn. Attend relevant SEG and EMPIG meetings to brief on progress as required.

Project Outputs

By 13th December 2010:

  1. UK Map of potential large eel habitat projects with accompanying GIS file.
  2. List of recommended national priority eel habitat opportunities.
  3. List of recommended eel habitat priorities on a WFD River Basin basis cross-referenced with Section 5 of the Eel Management Plans.
  4. Supporting information for delivery stakeholders e.g. eel habitat requirements, list of eel champions, potential funding sources etc.
  5. Map & priorities based on the project area of the North Sea Interreg area (to meet the funding requirements of the Living North Sea project).


Dr Polly Couldrick, previously of Westcountry Rivers Trust and project manager of the international INDICANG eel project, will carry out the work. Polly is returning to work for the Trusts after taking time out to have two children and is both very excited and very well qualified to deliver this project. Fish biologists at other Trusts may contribute directly to the information gathering, and eel champions, EMPIGs, and other SEG members will also play a major role in directing the project.


The project budget is £20,000 and will be funded jointly by the Environment Agency and the Association of Rivers Trusts through the Living North Sea project.


  • Unite likely deliverers of BAP / habitat improvement work for eel under a single set of priorities in order to make the most of available funding and achieve the best outcome for eel.
  • Provide an immediate conservation strategy that is realistically deliverable by the members of SEG.
  • Influence the revision of statutory Eel Management Plans to reflect SEG conservation priorities.
  • Provide a framework for adoption of eel habitat priorities and actions under related initiatives e.g. Wetland Vision, River Basin plans & WFD work.
  • Identify an agreed set of projects which may form the basis of single or multiple strategic funding bids.