Anglian Water is installing a brand new eel screen at its site in Norwich as part of significant programme of works designed to make a difference to the endangered species.

The European eel is now classed as critically endangered after a 95 per cent decline in population over the last 25 years.

As part of Anglian Water’s Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP), the scheme is a £1.5million investment into new eel screens installed on the river Wensum, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as part of a larger programme of upgrade works at Anglian Water’s Treatment Site at Heigham.

Eels spend their early years in rivers across Europe before migrating to the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic to spawn. The spawn is then thought to use the Gulf stream to return to our rivers, by which time they have developed into very small glass eels.

One of the reasons why the eel population is thought to have declined so rapidly in recent years, is because structures in our rivers, like weirs, locks and other machinery prevents the species from completing their migration cycle in order to reproduce.

The new screens at Heigham, stop eels from entering the abstraction intake, but the size of the mesh on the screens also means they protect fish and other organisms from being drawn into the machinery too.

Rosie Cope, Senior Environmental Manager for Anglian Water said: “We protect important habitats and species at 47 SSSIs across our region, the Wensum being one of them. Schemes like this are vitally important so that we can continue to encourage the growth and natural migration of endangered species like the Euorpean eels throughout our region and beyond.

“Between now and 2020, we’ll be installing in two eel passes, 12 screening schemes, as well as conducting further investigations to ensure eels are protected from our equipment at other sites too.

“Beyond 2020 we’re proposing a further £800million investment, as part of our business plan to protect and enhance the region’s environment.  This is more than double our previous investment, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Dr Jonah Tosney from The Norfolk Rivers Trust is in favour of Anglian Water’s efforts on eel conservation: “Work like this is incredibly important if we are to save the eel from extinction, not just in Norfolk but globally. They are an important part of the food chain and their numbers have been sparse in the upper reaches of rivers like the Wensum. More eels moving freely up and down the river is good news for the whole ecosystem.”

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For more information contact:

Regan Harris, Anglian Water Press Office on 0871 677 0123

Pictures are available here.

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Posted by Anglian Water