Eels disappearing from Thames

A A A

Eel populations in the River Thames have crashed by 98 per cent in just five years, scientists warned today.

The eel, which has been a traditional East London dish for centuries, now appears to be vanishing from the capital's river, according to researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).



Each year, ZSL's Tidal Thames Conservation Project places eel traps in a number of the river's tributaries, to catch the fish and allow scientists to record numbers before setting them free.



While 1,500 were captured in the traps in 2005, just 50 were recorded last year.



The eels are thought to take up to three years migrating as larvae from the Sargasso Sea to European rivers, where they spend up to 20 years before making the 6,500km (4,000-mile) return journey across the Atlantic to spawn and die.



But conservationists are concerned the species is not returning to the Thames, or is facing problems in the river and its tributaries.



European eels and flounders were the first species to recolonise the Thames Estuary after it was considered "biologically dead" in the 1960s, and there are fears the rapid collapse of the eel population could have knock-on effects for other species in the still-fragile ecosystem.



Other rivers in the UK are also seeing declines in eel populations, ZSL said.



Matthew Gollock, tidal Thames conservation project manager, said: "Eels are mysterious creatures at the best of times but we are very concerned about the rapid disappearance in the Thames.



"It is difficult to say what is going on - it could be due to a number of potential factors including changes in oceanic currents due to climate change, man-made structures such as dams and the presence of certain diseases and parasites."



And he said there was a need to find out why the declines were happening, in order to save the fish and help other species in the estuary's food web who would be affected by its disappearance, such as birds which feed on it.



"Time appears to be running out for eels in the River Thames and this could have a domino effect on other species in the Thames," Dr Gollock said.



"The Thames is a very urban, developed estuary. It's much healthier than it was 50 years ago, but there is constant pressure on it.



"It's quite a precarious ecosystem and the fast removal of any species - whether it is a fish or a plant - is going to upset the balance," he warned.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before