European Eel Conservation
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Recruitment of the European eel is believed to have declined by up to 95% over the last 25-30 years across Europe. Reasons for its decline are muted as a combination of habitat loss, barriers to migration, parasites, pollution, over-fishing and climate change affecting oceanic currents.
Since spring 2005, ZSL has been working to conserve these iconic London inhabitants as part of our Tidal Thames Conservation Project. To find out about our survey methods, engagement with industry and how you can get involved please browse the web pages below.
European eels have a long and complex life cycle. They are a migratory, catadromous fish, feeding and growing in fresh water but returning to the sea to spawn. Their spawning grounds are believed to be in the Sargasso Sea with adults undertaking a 7000km migration from the UK. Find out more about the European Eel
Silver Eel Monitoring
ZSL is working with the Environment Agency to assess resident eel populations in the North Kent Marshes. These are thought to be important habitats, where the eels can spend up to thirty years feeding and growing before returning to the Sargasso Sea. In addition to measuring the eels, we are investigating local ecological and management factors with the goal of informing regional and national conservation strategies. More about surveying resident eels
New technology for eel monitoring
ZSL and the Environment Agency are embarking on trials of innovative new technology for monitoring downstream migrations of mature European eels. Using a DIDSON - Dual Frequency Identification Sonar - to capture anguillid swimmers on 'film', it is hoped that new methods for monitoring numbers of eels leaving Thames tributaries to begin their migration to the Sargasso sea can be developed. See how ZSL are doing this.
London Eel Action Plan
London's rivers face multiple pressures from the growing populations that surround them. The London Eel Action Plan (LEAP), under the guidance of the Environment Agency's Thames catchment fisheries team, uses the European eel as a flagship species to improve rivers for eels and consequently other fish and wildlife. Find out more about the LEAP programme
Conserving the European Eel
ZSL is monitoring the migration of the critically endangered European eel in the Thames and its tributaries. Throughout the summer the ZSL team circumnavigate London on the hunt for eels in order to understand their unique life-cycle and highlight pressure on their population. Read more about our eel monitoring project
Citizen Science Programme
Want to help save London's eels? The citizen science programme relies on members of the public to check ZSL elver traps, located on 11 tributaries of the Thames, twice a week. The volunteers don their waders to count and measure elvers before uploading the data onto the ZSL database. It is a great opportunity for members of the public to get involved in essential conservation work and if you would like to join our growing team of citizen scientists, please do get in touch. Read more about our citizen science project
New for 2013
On 13th May 2013, we installed our first permanent eel pass on the River Darent, with help from the North West Kent Countryside Partnership. The bristles on this structure will provide a media for the eels to crawl through, so that they can pass over the weir and continue their migration further upstream. We are planning to build many more passes in London's rivers over the coming years so that more habitat is opened up for eels to live in.
Sustainable Eel Group
ZSL is one of the key organisations involved in the Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) which is a made up of scientists, conservationists, policy and commercial sectors to support the recovery of the European Eel. Much of their recent work has been in relation to the European eel fishery, highlighting the importance of cross-sector collaborations to manage stocks sustainably. About SEG