Endangered eels return to Stratford’s River Lee

Endangered eels are expected in Stratford’s River Lee thanks to improvements introduced in the river.

In one of the world’s greatest known animal migrations, juvenile eels, called elvers, enter the UK’s rivers every spring, having travelled over 7000 km in their journey from the Sargasso Sea to the European coast.

Research shows that they will now be able to mature in their spiritual home in Stratford’s River Lee.

This is due to the construction of special passes that allow elvers to move past river barriers that would otherwise obstruct their upstream migration.

It has been identified as one of the measures necessary to contribute to the recovery of the Critically Endangered European eel.


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The Canal & River Trust has made a number of improvements to the River Lee Navigation to encourage the passage of elvers and enhance their watery homes.

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have confirmed that elvers are using the newly installed pass at Bow Locks to access the River Lee. Thirteen elvers were recorded this year. With funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, ZSL has been working with volunteers from Thames 21 to monitor the pass at Bow Locks for the migrating elvers.

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The Lee was historically an industrial river and suffered from heavy pollution. The Trust is committed to continual improvements to the Lee and has already put significant investment in to recent works including installing two kilometres of reed beds, dredging the river and managing invasive plants to improve water quality and habitat for all wildlife.

Leela O’Dea, environment manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Confirmation that elvers are migrating into the River Lee is extremely exciting. The Canal & River Trust has really invested in transforming the Lee from a heavily polluted waterway into the important wildlife habitat it is today, and having elver in the river really is the icing on the cake.”

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