A major £45,000 initiative to boost stocks of young eels in the UK launched at Blagdon Lake on Monday 30 September when 25,000 juvenile eels were released into the reservoir.
The eels’ release is the first step in a nationwide project to restock wetlands and waterways that have been closed to them in recent decades, and is the result of a pioneering new partnership between industry and environmental organisations in the South West: Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, the Sustainable Eel Group, The Rivers Trust, and UK Glass Eels – the UK’s leading glass eel supplier – based in Gloucester.
Blagdon Lake is one of the recommended eel restocking locations in the UK identified by The Rivers Trust scientists as an ideal nursery habitat for the young eels to grow and develop in the next 15-20 years.
Once mature, the eels will return to the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic to breed and spawn.
Additional batches of thousands of young eels will be released in Llangorse Lake in Wales, the River Teme in Shropshire, and sites in the East of England over the next few weeks, all donated by UK Glass Eels.
Andrew Kerr, Chairman of Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) said: “Young eels have had a very difficult time over the last 20 years, with thousands of miles of waterways and wetlands closed to them by man-made barriers.”
“Our new partnership to restock important habitats on this scale is the first of its kind in the UK, and Blagdon Lake will now play a vital international role in helping the European eel return to abundance.”
“We’re very grateful to UK Glass Eels for donating 100,000 juvenile eels for projects across the UK. The first few months of a little eel’s life are incredibly hazardous in nature, but UK Glass Eels have provided sheltered conditions and food for the last 3 months, ensuring that the eels are bigger and stronger when they’re released. All of the eels were caught and housed according to the strict rules of the SEG Sustainable Eel Standard, including using traditional hand net fishing techniques on the River Severn during the spring.”
Fast Facts about the UK restocking initiative:
- Blagdon Lake was considered as “ideal” by The Rivers Trust scientists because of its combination of shallow water, extensive natural reeds and plentiful food.
- The young eels do not currently have a gender. The Rivers Trust scientists specifically asked for 25,000 eels to encourage more of them to become females than males – helping boost numbers further when they return to sea to spawn.
- Similar initiatives have been trialled by SEG members in Sweden. Trials are ongoing, but early research shows that restocking initiatives have helped more eels to reach inland habitats to grow before returning to breed in the Sargasso Sea.
- UK Glass Eels has recently built and opened a dedicated new facility in Gloucester with the latest technologies to maximise eel survival. Their glass eels have some of the highest survival rates in the world.