Eel and fish passage

South Cumbria Rivers Trust are actively involved in improving fish and eel passage at sites of man-made barriers e.g. weirs and tidal gates. Elvers should be common in the South Cumbrian rivers and becks, but a recent Environment Agency surveys show that they are in fact rare. Indeed, the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has declined fast in recent years and is now classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Eels breed in the Sargasso Sea in the Western Atlantic, and travel in the Gulf Stream towards Europe’s rivers to feed. In the past, vast numbers of tiny glass eels and elvers would have inhabited tributaries of the River Duddon, Crake, Leven, Kent and Bela.

The reasons for the more than 90% drop in eel numbers, during the last 25 years in UK rivers are not yet fully understood. They may be due to a range of factors, including: pollution; climate change; changes in ocean currents; over-fishing; and parasite activity. The other obvious barrier to eels moving upstream to feed in British rivers is the presence of human-made structures and barriers such as weirs and tide gates.

During the summer of 2012, SCRT installed 2 eel valves into existing tidal gates which allow the migration of glass eels upstream.

View our video showing infra-red footage of elvers and eels using the recently installed eel pass at Beetham weir.