Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Catcott Fen fish pass

Partnership working on the Somerset Levels gives the Critically Endangered European Eel hope for the future.

March 2017
Industry and Conservation Groups get together to install a new fish pass to help the critically endangered European Eel at Catcott Fen on the Somerset Levels. 
Chris Escott installs the pass to help eels get over the sluice into Catcott Fen                                                     Catcott Fen
EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point B power station has joined forces with local environmental groups to help protect critically endangered eels on the Somerset Levels.
It 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.
The new and established wetlands of the Somerset Moors and Levels are ideal habitat for eels, however, the hundreds of sluices used to manage water levels act like walls for eels migrating in and out.
EDF Energy’s funding has helped to provide a new fish pass to enable baby eels to get into and  colonise the 95 hectares of prime habitat at Catcott Fen from the nearby River Huntspill. The eels will grow there for between 8 and 20 years before migrating back to sea to spawn.
Amy Barwood, Hinkley Point B’s environmental co-ordinator, said: “New European legislation is helping to protect dwindling eel populations and we were delighted to be able to do our bit by providing a fish pass.”
The European Eel, once thriving across Europe and the UK, is currently classified as ‘critically endangered’ as their numbers have declined by about 90% over the past 40 years.  This is due to a number of reasons – mainly climate change, barriers to migration, destruction of wetland habitat and over-fishing in some places.
The eel has an extraordinary life cycle.  It starts as eggs in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda 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. It then returns to sea and swims 3000 miles for over a year back to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.
This is a partnership project involving the following organisations:
EDF Energy, who funded the project
The Sustainable Eel Group, who organised it
Somerset Wildlife Trust, who own Catcott Fen, and the sluice where the pass was installed
Berry & Escott, who designed, supplied and installed the pass
The Environment Agency, who approved the installation