Shrewsbury School

Thousands of eels released into the River Severn by Shrewsbury’s Conservation Group

Friday 25 April 2014

A group of Fourth Form boys, who have been spending their Thursday afternoons engaged in a range of different conservation activities in Ridgemount Wood, yesterday helped with the release of some 50,000 glass eels into the River Severn – and were featured on BBC Midlands Today doing so.

Head of Biology Andrew Allott, who leads the Conservation Group, was contacted by Mike Morris of the Severn Rivers Trust during the Easter holiday, asking for the group’s help:  “We are about to catch over a million glass eels at the bottom end of the Severn in order to relocate them further up the system as they are unable to cross impassable barriers in their migration, namely weirs.”

“Eels are an amazing species,” explained Andrew, “They migrate to the Sargasso Sea to breed and then young ones (glass eels) return to rivers such as the Severn to grow to adulthood. There used to be large numbers but, like most wildlife, populations are far smaller than they were. One problem is weirs on the river, which form an obstruction to upstream migration. Another is water quality, though the Severn isn't bad. A third problem is excessive catches of glass eels as they move from estuaries up into rivers. They are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. The aim of the relocation was therefore to get much larger numbers of glass eels up into the Upper Severn than would otherwise reach it."

The group are also planning to rear some glass eels in Mr Allott’s biology lab for a few weeks and then release them. They will gain weight and so have a better chance of survival.

The Conservation Group have been working in Ridgemount Wood with Mr Allott and Dr Torin Morgan on several other projects:
- making steps to improve access into the wood
- making a path through the wood to serve as a nature trail
- treating Japanese Knotweed with herbicide to try to eliminate it
- clearing large amounts of trash, including discarded bottles that can prove a hazard to some species
- constructing two ponds to increase biodiversity
- building and putting up bird boxes
- stacking dead wood to form refugia for invertebrates
- making seats at points where there is a view or interesting wildlife to watch.

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