Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Endangered eels given a helping hand up the River Trent as they make epic transatlantic journey

Endangered eels given a helping hand up the River Trent as they make epic transatlantic journey

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. 
In a partnership project, a special eel pass has been installed on Hazelford Weir on the River Trent, between Nottingham and Newark.

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.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
In an effort to reverse the decline partnership projects are installing a number of eel passes at weirs on the River Trent. The passes act like ladders enabling the eels to make their way over the weirs.
Funding for the Hazelford pass, along with a similar one at Belmoor Lakes near Retford, came from EDF Energy. It’s part of a huge programme of work underway across Europe to help restore eel populations by restoring wetlands and removing barriers to the eels’ migration routes. Hazleford Weir is owned by the Canal & River Trust, and they commissioned Fishtek Consulting to design and install the pass, with help from the Sustainable Eel Group and the Environment Agency.
Nick Baggaley from the Canal & River Trust said; “Eels are an incredibly 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.
“We’re delighted to give the eels a helping hand as they make their incredible journey. What’s really exciting is that the pass at Hazelford is already being used and hopefully we’ll see many more eels making their way up the Trent.”
Martin Cheetham, Plant Manager at EDF Energy’s West Burton A Power Station said: “We wanted to do our bit by providing the eel pass on Hazelford Weir. We have enjoyed working alongside many dedicated local partners who are all determined to support and improve the eel population.
“It is fascinating to understand the role that these passes will play in opening up new habitats for eels. I am very proud that West Burton A and Cottam are supporting these projects which will hopefully start to see a reversal in the decline of the eel population.”
Louise Cresswell, East Midlands Area Director of the Environment Agency, said:
“We are delighted to have worked with the Sustainable Eel Group, EDF Energy and partners in the construction of an eel pass at Hazleford Weir and given Environment Agency approval to the project. Getting past structures, such as the Hazleford Weir, is key for the survival of the eels and it will make a real difference to their ability to travel further upstream to reach habitats suitable for them to grow. 
 “The eel pass will also increase their chances of returning to the sea to spawn in subsequent years and, with numbers currently so low, the eels need all the help they can get if we’re going to keep this fascinating species in our rivers.  Eels also benefit the local biodiversity so this project to help boost their numbers is a welcome development.”
Soon after the pass was built, Fishtek staff saw and filmed an eel using the pass. 
Hazleford Eel Pass

This is a partnership project involving the following organisations:
EDF Energy,
who funded the projects
The Canal & River Trust
Who own Hazelford weir and organised the eel pass there
Fishtek Consulting,
who designed, supplied and installed the pass at Hazelford Weir
The Sustainable Eel Group,
who organised the projects
for EDF Energy
The Environment Agency,
who approved the installation