Eels return to the Thames

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is monitoring eel migrations in the Thames and its tributaries in response to concern about the decline in the number of European eels returning to the UK.

The eel’s connection to London has been apparent for centuries, not least as a popular dish amongst working people of the East End. Eels also play an important role in the ecology of the River Thames. They help keep a balance of animals in the waters and are themselves food to more visible and once endangered river wildlife like herons and otters.

Our ecologists Sarah Nicholas and Wendy McFarlane have been volunteering for Thames 21 on the ZSL monitoring programme, conducting eel surveys at Bow Locks in East London.

So far they have completed three surveys and have found elvers (young eels) each time. The total for this site from April to June is 21 eels, an encouraging increase on the three recorded in the same six month period last year.

By assessing the distribution of eels within the Thames catchment and identifying restrictions to eel migrations, steps can be taken to ensure that the historic and infamous Thames eel remains a viable part of the ecology of the River Thames.

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