Eel meet again… you can help this Cockney staple through the watercourses of Hackney

supplied by Canal and River Trust

EELS ARE a part of East End culture: even vegetarian incomers have heard of F Cooke and other classic eel-and-pie shops.

But for the last 30 years they have had to look to continental suppliers for eels because the slitherers have been blocked by the locks on the waterways that lead from the Thames and up along the River Lea (or Lee, if you prefer).

The extraordinary snake-like fish migrate almost 5,000km from their spawning in a sea called Sargasso, which of course makes the story sound like a folk myth. It gets stranger.

Their journey across the Atlantic Ocean, gliding on ocean currents and snapping up smaller creatures, the while trying to avoid predators, takes about three years.

Enter the Canal and River Trust. The volunteer outfit has been installing channels, filters, at the side of lock gates that allow eels, at that stage known as elvers because they are in the early part of their 80 to 100 years of life span, to wriggle upstream.

The trust is working with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), both of them charities, to monitor eel numbers at the specially made eel pass at Lee Bridge Road, Clapton E5 9RB (happily near the Princess of Wales, a much-improved pub).

Trust ecologist Chantal Dave says: “Eels are synonymous with the East End, albeit in their jellied form rather than for journeying thousands of miles and setting up home in our waterways.

The Hackney council calendar that reproduced this watercolour said it shows the mills at Lea Bridge in the 1850s, although it may be of the mills downstream at Bow
The Hackney council calendar that reproduced this watercolour said it shows the mills at Lea Bridge in the 1850s, although it may be of the mills downstream at Bow
Yet every eel on the Lea would have made “this amazing journey” to live in the river for about 40 years, before returning to the Sargasso. Anguilla anguilla was an endangered species, whose numbers had fallen by at least 90 per cent since the 1970s.

ZSL conservationist Joe Pecorelli adds: “By building passes we open up more habitat to eels, allowing greater numbers to reach maturity in our rivers and make the epic journey back to the Sargasso to spawn.

“This is not only of benefit to populations of the critically endangered eel but also to the wider ecology of our precious urban rivers.”

David Altheer 190516

Volunteers are needed to help this endangered species. The first training session to count and measure eels is at the Lea bridge in Clapton  E5 9RB next Tuesday 24 May 2016 at 6pm.

Email nittan.mann@canalrivertrust.org.uk 

Backstory Dirty old River LeeFishy business on the riverLift your spirits with the LeeThree Mills Island tide of support

Apart from main pic, top, which has been supplied, pictures on this page are © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com and are for sale for reproduction. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.

This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. They may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, or for shortening. In the unlikely event that anything defamatory is posted, the sender’s details may have to be divulged. (Under UK law, this applies to any comment/discussion forum, eg, Twitter.) RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston Publicists, amateur and professional, should read http://bit.ly/ZnClKc Also relevant may be the note at the end of http://bit.ly/117GXmi Photographs © David Altheer unless otherwise stated and apart from supplied pictures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *