Posted: Monday 17th December 2012 by Gordon
Adult Eel; silver or yellow
The once common eel, a staple of Severn life, is in serious decline not just locally but across Europe. Saving this important iconic species requires ‘big picture’ thinking. Tomorrow, local charity, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is travelling to Normandy to help push this thinking forward.
I am flying to the Selune Valley in Normandy tomorrow morning with a party of rivers and fisheries experts to look at a major river conservation programme. The party of 14 will meet French colleagues and officials who are tackling artificial obstacles on the Selune River including two dams that are being removed as part of French government action.
I am taking this opportunity to fly from Gloucester to Normandy to stress that this is a large scale European issue. Gloucestershire will lose its elvers and silver eels forever unless the UK and European countries take rapid action. This once common fish is now in such decline that commercial fisheries are in crisis.
The visit is part of a campaign by the Sustainable Eel Group to draw attention to the structures that are preventing the migratory European eel from reaching its home rivers. There are an estimate 10000 barriers across European rivers of which 1500 are in France. The group has written to the French Government to stress the need for further actions.
The once common eel, a staple of Severn life, is in serious decline across Europe. The Frampton Feast once featured elvers as part of its festival of local celebration but this is no longer possible. The international conservation body, the IUCN, has shown that elvers have been in decline from 1980, and since 2000 the population is at an historical low at just 1-5% of the pre-1980 levels. That’s a startling 95-99% decline!
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is playing its part in local action by working with the Environment Agency on habitat recreation schemes in the Severn vale and on the Cotswold Rivers. We need to recognise that the engineering that was once looked on as clever ways to deal with agricultural drainage and flooding now look crude and clumsy. The problem of tidal gates, flap valves and weirs present significant engineering and flood management problems.
It is not only the eel that is in serious trouble. Salmon is now a scarce fish on the Wye and Severn. Also worrying is the loss and probable extinction of two fish the twaite and alice shad from Severn Rivers. We are failing future generations and conserving the eel represents a challenge we must not duck ’.