Close-season called to save eel migration

The Environment Agency (EA) imposed the first ever close-season on eel fishing, earlier this month, as wild numbers continue to dwindle in UK waterways.

The six-month ban came into effect this month making it illegal to set nets to catch eels and elvers (young eels) as they migrate down rivers on their way to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

It is the latest measure the EA has taken after announcing a series of byelaws in January, aimed at safeguarding the native eel population.

Other byelaws have already led to measures ensuring elver catches are recorded and traceable, all-out fishing bans in certain areas and significant limitations on what equipment can be used; specifically a wholesale halt to trawling.

However, the problem is not an issue for the UK alone. Environmentalists estimate that returning elver figures have already fallen by more than 95 per cent in Europe as a whole, which has led to the European Commission demanding all member states take immediate action to protect eels and halt their decline.

Fisheries enforcement staff are now actively searching for illegal nets placed during the close-season, and have threatened to prosecute anybody found in breach of the new laws.

The EA’s Roger Handford has urged members of the public to be vigilant and report any illegal activity. He said: “We have seen the numbers of eels in our rivers fall over the last few decades, it is vital that we act now to reverse the decline and ensure there are healthy populations of the species in the future.”

To report illegal nets or illegal fishing, call the EA’s emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Sam Plester

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