Rare eel slips back into local waters

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eel lymington
The endangered European eel has been seen in Lymington waters

A CRITICALLY endangered species of eel has been found at Lymington’s ferry port following the reintroduction of oysters to the water.

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The European eel was spotted by experts from the Blue Marine Foundation, a charity dedicated to restoring the world’s oceans, as they inspected the recently installed brood stock oyster cages.

As reported in the A&T, the charity has returned 69,000 oysters to the Solent across 12 sites as part of its Solent restoration project. Last month, in a joint project with ferry operator Wightlink, a further 300 were placed in the Lymington River.

As well as releasing millions of larvae, the oyster cages have shown to provide a refuge for other marine life, such as juvenile spiny seahorse and sea bass – and now eels.

Wightlink’s chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “This is great news. These oysters are already improving water quality by removing pollutants – just one of them can filter up to 200 litres of water a day.

“We are delighted to hear this endangered eel has already been spotted, and hope our nursery will continue to be a refuge for rare species.”

European eels begin life as eggs at the bottom of the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic, then spend a year or two migrating with the ocean current 4,000 miles to Europe, where they seek out freshwater habitats.

When mature, the eels return to their birthplace to spawn. Historically, they were caught in the River Thames and enjoyed jellied and in pies, but their numbers have declined in recent years due to over fishing, coastal development and pesticides.

Dr Luke Helmer from the Blue Marine Foundation added: “This was an exciting discovery and adds to our knowledge of the eel population in our estuaries.

“We have also found them in the River Itchen and Chichester Harbour, which could mean that these areas are important migratory routes or that the eels reside here for longer periods. We need to know more about this intriguing species and are keen to carry out research into the eel’s complex lifecycle.”

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