In a bid to protect the vulnerable eel, the Environment Agency in Hampshire are installing special devices at various locations across Hampshire that will help make their journey up stream easier.

Environment Agency Officers are installing individually made bristle mats to the walls of weirs to help eels and elvers (baby eels) swim up stream. The work is being carried out in time for the run of eels migrating up through the catchments.

The Environment Agency is concerned about a national decline in eel stocks. An assessment of wiers and structures on Hampshire rivers has identified a need for improvements. The eel is an economically and ecologically important species for our rivers, providing an income for fisherman and a food source for species such as otters. Stocks of the vulnerable fish are in decline as a result of several factors, such as changes in the Gulf Stream, pollution, barriers to freshwater migration and overfishing. For this reason the Environment Agency affords as much protection to the species as possible.

The success of the new passes will be evaluated this year with a view to improving eel passage on other river systems in the future.

Hannah Wright, Environment Agency Fisheries Technical Officer, said:

“The poor old eel is often a forgotten species and we are all very excited at the prospect of giving these incredible creatures a helping hand in reaching high quality upstream habitats.

“This is a rewarding project that will have many environmental benefits. It will not only help protect this vulnerable species, it will also support the surrounding wildlife that depend on them.”