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Catchment Management

Critically endangered European Eel protected on River Hull

To prevent Eels from inadvertently swimming from the River Hull into water treatment works, Yorkshire Water has completed an Eel protection scheme designed to protect the endangered fish from getting trapped.

The project, at Tophill Low water treatment works located next to the River Hull near Driffield, took six months to complete at a cost of £100,000.

Around Europe there has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of European Eels, a once popular dish in parts of England, to the point where the fish is now classified as critically endangered.

Yorkshire Water’s project involved lowering the outfall from the existing screens and connecting the upstream pipework to ensure Eels going out through the outfall don’t get picked off by predators.

Ben Gillespie, lead hydroecology advisor at Yorkshire Water said: “This investment will really help to make a difference to the struggling European Eel population. It will enable the fish to migrate freely up and down the river with no barriers in place. This scheme at Tophill Low, combined with two other Eel improvement schemes and our £10m fish pass programme, will permanently improve the aquatic environment of Yorkshire.”

To try and halt the decline in Eel numbers, the EU Eels Regulations orders water companies to ensure their screens and inlets are designed in such a way to protect the fish species.

Pat O'Brien, Fisheries Technical Specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “Whilst compliance with the EU regulations required Yorkshire Water to upgrade current screening arrangements to protect Eels, this project will deliver greater protection for all juvenile fish species that may find themselves inadvertently entrained with safe return to the River Hull.”

Eels spend their early years in rivers and estuaries across Europe before migrating to the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic to breed. The spawn then uses the Gulf stream to return back to into UK rivers by which time they have developed into small glass Eels.

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