Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Critically Endangered

Once a common sight in Britain's rivers, the European eel is now on the critically endangered list. The population has plummeted by 90% in the past 30 years. As water quality improves it seems strange that eels and other migratory fish have not significantly recovered. One of the reasons for their decline are man made obstructions in rivers, like weirs, which prevents young eels migrating upstream. But now conservationists are hoping measures they are taking in waterways across the country are gradually helping their numbers recover. Eels will live in the rivers for between 10 to 40 years, until they swim across the Atlantic Ocean to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

A European wide recovery plan was established in 2009 that required all countries to create "eel plans" for their river systems which would encourage recovery and to ensure that enough adult eels would make the journey back to their spawning grounds. It was intended that a reserve of 40 million eels for conservation and restocking work would be collected. The French were allowed a quota to catch 15 tonnes of glass eels, for various markets (about 50 million of them) The French were also supposed to reserve, in the course of the season, about 12 tonnes for restocking European rivers. They were all sold to the lucrative trade in China, where they are eaten as a delicacy. This means that the restocking requirements for European countries will not be met.

But there is better news for a fish. A refuge has been created in Northumberland for a rare species of fish threatened with extinction in its native Cumbrian habitat. Numbers of Arctic char have plummeted at Ennerdale because of acidity in the water caused by the surrounding coniferous woodland. The trees are being moved back from the lake, but in the meantime Kielder Water has become an "ark".

The next Vincent Wildlife Trust national polecat survey will be starting in January and run from 2014 to 2015. The aims of the survey are to gather up-to-date information on the current distribution of the polecat in Britain and investigate hybridisation between polecats and ferrets. The VWT will be collecting records of polecats, polecat-ferrets and feral ferrets from all over mainland Britain. They will be appealing for records verified by photos and also carcasses. So whilst you are out boating if you come across any relevant sightings please get in touch with the VWT at: enquiries@vwt.org.uk or for more information see their website: www.vwt.org.uk/our-work/projects/national-polecat-survey

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