Eel Anguilla Anguilla
Eels were once a valuable commodity in the Norfolk Broads and Fens. Ely is named after this species and the Lord of the Manor there was once paid an annual rent of 100,000 eels. The River Wensum holds good numbers of Eels as do many Broads in Norfolk
Conservation status in Norfolk
Eels have declined across Europe and East Anglia is no exception. Areas such as Salthouse were once famous for their eels and many traditional eel runs were once fished in the Broads. Declines in eel populations have been noted on rivers across Norfolk but the cause is not known. Pollution, over-fishing in the past, parasite infestation, and climate change have all been suggested as possible causes.
How to help
Ensuring water quality is high in rivers and Broads and that wetland habitats and rivers are well protected can only help remaining populations but further research is needed to establish the causes of their decline.
Information on the Eel
How to recognise
A long, narrow, muscular and rope-like fish, often appearing dark brown or black. There is a continuous fin running along the top of the body to the tip of the tail ( the dorsal and anal fins merge forming a continuous ridge along the top of the eel’s body ). They are slippery and slimy to the touch – this mucus enables the eel to survive out of water for extended periods. At different life stages eels do appear very different changing from thin transparent ‘glass eels’ found at sea, to 50mm long young ‘elvers’ which grow to sexually mature ‘silver eels’ which may be up to a metre long.
Where to see
Most often seen in rivers, lakes and Broads – freshwater dykes and drains also support eels. The River Wensum holds good numbers as do many Broads including NWT Hickling
When to see
Can be seen at all times of year but are more active between spring and autumn.
Did you know?
Ely is named after this species and the Lord of the Manor there was once paid an annual rent of 100,000 eels.
All of Norfolk’s eels spawn in the Sargasso sea – their offspring are carried on the Gulf Stream current and look like curled leaves drifting for up to three years before metamorphosing into transparent glass eels.
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