18. The Common Eel (Anguilla Anguilla) Wildlife of the Solway
Wildlife of The Solway Firth : The Common Eel by Mark Vollers
Of all the fish species found locally the Common Eel has one of the most extraordinary life cycles.
This eel ( the only other eel found around the UK is the totally marine Conger) is no longer common, and for reasons not yet fully understood has suffered an estimated 95% decline over Europe as a whole over the last 25 years and it’s fishing has now been either banned or restricted in many countries, including in the UK.
What used to be a staple dish in the middle ages is now unknown as a food to most of us and a delicacy in other countries. Fish farms now produce the bulk of ‘the catch’, but they depend on a supply of wild baby eels ( elvers), adding to the pressure on wild stocks.
Elvers ( small and transparent) arrive on our coasts after a year long migration on the Gulf stream from their birthplace in The Sargasso Sea near Bermuda, and then migrate up rivers and streams to find a suitable place to live.
This could even be in a land-locked pond, as they can squirm over wet grass at night to reach such places.
They mature over a period as long as forty or fifty years, reaching a weight of up to 25Kg and a length of over a metre.
They are then triggered, probably by the state of the moon, simultaneously with other mature eels, to make the 3,000 mile on way migration back to their birth place to breed and then die.