Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Political support grows for sustainable eel plans

–          UK Minister echoes call for more action to help eels reach crucial inland waterways

–          Record migration in 2013, but tiny ‘elvers’ still face massive man made obstacles

Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Resource Management, the Local Environment and Environmental Science at DEFRA this morning joined environmentalists, scientists and fishermen calling for more action to help baby eels tackle Europe’s flood defences and gain access to crucial rivers and wetlands.

Fans of the traditional delicacy have been disappointed by dwindling eel populations over the last twenty years, which has seen it disappear from many menus.

But this year’s unexpected boost in migrating elvers – the tiny baby eels that float across the Atlantic and catch spring tides– has given new hope that eels may return to abundance in Europe.

Billions of little elvers washed into European estuaries from Madeira to Iceland during the last few months, with tens of millions arriving in the UK. But they face blockages like lock gates, dykes and weirs across the majority of rivers – denying them access to their traditional environments to migrate, grow and mature.

Speaking at the European Eel Conference in London, Lord de Mauley today echoed calls for more action to help eels reach crucial habitats inland.

“The decline in numbers of European eels is a real concern. We recognise the road to recovery is a long one and I am delighted today to see so much commitment to protecting this special species.

“A coordinated approach across Europe is essential.”

Andrew Kerr, Chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group said

“Communities, scientists and conservationists across Europe are uniting in a unique way to give eels a sustainable future and to help their population increase again.

“One of our biggest priorities is to overcome the barriers to UK and European waterways, so that eels can freely migrate, grow and mature naturally. We’re delighted that the UK Government, influential European experts and the Fisheries committee of the European Parliament are supporting this work to accelerate the recovery of the European eel.”

The Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) European Eel Conference started today and runs to 27 June. Titled “Breaking Down Barriers”, the conference will hear a range of highly respected scientists, policy makers and industry experts say that, despite significant progress in the last two years, more action needs to be taken to ensure the eel recovers – particularly by reopening Europe’s rivers and waterways to help the eels migrate, grow and mature.

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