Incredible Sargasso journey of river eels

European eels (lat.: Anguilla anguilla)

European eels (lat.: Anguilla anguilla) - Credit: DPA - FROM PA

Work begins this week on the River Lea in Hackney, to help endangered eels set up home in London’s East End.

Keith Bennett from the Canal and Rivers Trust installing the eel tunnel

Keith Bennett from the Canal and Rivers Trust installing the eel tunnel - Credit: Archant

All European eels start their lives in the Sargasso Sea, 3,000 miles away in the Atlantic Ocean, before using ocean currents to journey to the estuaries and rivers of Europe, where they mature.

After about 40 years they will incredibly make their way back again to the Sargasso Sea.

The epic route of the eel is interrupted only when they come to obstructions, such as dams, weirs and lock gates – hence specially made passes are needed to help them navigate around the barriers.

The Canal and River Trust, the charity which cares for the waterway, is refurbishing the eel pass at Lea Bridge Road to enable the species to make its way around the weir on this part of the river, and continue its journey upstream.

Canal and River Trust ecologist, Chantal Dave, said: “Eels are synonymous with the East End, albeit in their jellied form rather than for journeying thousands of miles and setting up home in our waterways.

“Every eel on the River Lea will have made this amazing journey, they’ll then live here for about 40 years, before returning to the Sargasso.

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“They are an endangered species, their population numbers have declined by 90 per cent or more since the 1970s, and there’s so much more we need to learn about them.”

“Improving our eel pass can make a real difference, so we’re delighted to be getting this work completed,” she added.

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