New pass added to River Cam for booming eel population

PUBLISHED: 12:23 17 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:23 17 October 2013

The new eel pass on the River Cam.

The new eel pass on the River Cam.

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A new pass has been added to the River Cam to cope with surging numbers of eels which are migrating to Cambridgeshire.

The Environment Agency has added a new pass at Chesterton Road alongside Jesus Green in central Cambridge to help eels move along the river as part of their refurbishment of the Jesus Green sluice.

The eel pass, which is attached to the weir wall in the middle of the River Cam, will allow eels and elvers (young eels) to navigate easily over the existing weir.

The number of eels counted on the river soared 130-fold in the past year - suggesting the region is enjoying its biggest migration since the 1970s.

Up to 16,000 eels are moving through the sluice every day, having reached the Ouse via The Wash after drifting across the Atlantic Ocean.

Kye Jerrom, fisheries expert for the Environment Agency said: “The eel pass is a new design for us. It’s made up of a series of bristle pads which are attached by brackets to the wall of the sluice.

“The eel and elver use the bristles to navigate across the pads and up over the wall of the weir – it’s a bit like a staircase.

“This is a great opportunity to improve the biodiversity of the River Cam but actually help with an international conservation issue.

“The sluice is an essential part of the flood defences for properties along the River Cam but it’s a real blocker for fish movements.

“The new eel pass will definitely improve eel populations in the Cam, with lowland rivers and Fenland drains providing some of Europe’s best eel habitat.”

Eels are listed in the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora) as a critically endangered species.

They arrive from deep waters near the Bermuda triangle into the English Channel, Wash and Great Ouse before progressing further upstream to continue with their freshwater life-stage that can last up to 60 years.

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