The Environment Agency has added a new pass to help eels move along the River Cam as part of their refurbishment of the Jesus Green sluice.
The refurbishment, at Chesterton Road alongside Jesus Green in central Cambridge, is part of an ongoing programme of repairs to ensure that River Cam flood defences continue to protect people and property from flooding.
The eel pass is attached to the weir wall in the middle of the River Cam. It will allow eels and elvers (young eels) to navigate easily over the existing weir.
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.”
The eel pass has been built to ensure the site is compliant with the Eel Regulations 2009 which require that all structures within watercourses have the capability to allow free passage for eels. This means removing or providing routes around barriers to eel migration.
Eels are listed in the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora) as a critically endangered species, and Europe have imposed strict measures to reverse that trend.
Juvenile eels or Leptocephali make the trip from deep waters near the Bermuda triangle into Europe and for us that means the English Channel, Wash and Great Ouse and it’s tributaries before progressing further upstream to continue with their freshwater life-stage that can last up to 60 years.
The Environment Agency have a key role in ensuring that the biodiversity of our watercourses is enhanced and fish stocks are managed for the benefit of wildlife and people.
The organisation has ambitious plans to clean up 9,500 miles of rivers by 2015 – the distance from England to Australia, everyone has a part to play to help make our water and land more natural and sustainable for people and wildlife.
To find out more about the work the Environment Agency does to create a better place visit their website www.environment-agency.gov.uk