Yorkshire does its bit to save critically endangered eels
19 Jun 2019
Yorkshire Water is completing a £2 million project to save one of Britain’s fastest-declining fish species.
It has created three schemes on the Rivers Derwent, Hull and Esk to prevent the at-risk European Eel from inadvertently swimming into water treatment works at Ruswarp, Loftsome Bridge and Tophill Low.
Ben Gillespie, lead environment advisor at Yorkshire Water, said: “This investment will really help to make a difference to the struggling eel population. It will enable the fish to migrate freely up and down the River Hill and avoid getting trapped in the River Derwent and Esk.”
He added the work would form part of the authority’s £10 million ‘fish pass’ programme and permanently improve the aquatic environment of Yorkshire’s rivers.
The European Union Eels Regulations orders water companies to ensure their screens and inlets are designed in such a way to protect the fish species.
For Yorkshire Water, this meant building new and improved inlet screens at Loftsome Bridge water treatment works to protect the fish from accidentally getting drawn inside the treatment site’s water abstraction zone.
At Tophill Low and Ruswarp treatment works, the outfall from the existing screens has been lowered to ensure eels exiting through the outfall do not get picked off by predators.
The work was carried out in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA). EA fisheries technical specialist Pat O’Brien said: “Modern fish screening technology these days is not cheap but the investment will provide long tern benefits which will ‘future proof’ these sites for the benefit of all fish species.”
The European Eel’s habitat is extensive and runs beyond the borders of the continent in every direction.
European Eels spend their early years in rivers and estuaries across Europe before migrating more than 6,000 kilometres to the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic to breed. The spawn then use the Gulf stream to return back to into UK and continental rivers, by which time they have developed into young eels.
Once abundant and a delicacy for centuries, the species is now listed as critically endangered.
Yorkshire Water is not the only utility company to invest in protecting the species. Severn Trent Water recently funded the installation of fish friendly pumps at its Whiteacre pumping station, working with the EA and pumps company Hidrostal.
You can view more about UK waterways' conservation efforts on behalf of the European Eel, with a look at Glaven Eeel Porject in East Anglia (below).