Eels given helping hand to swim through Yate

May 30 2022
Eels given helping hand to swim through Yate

WORK is underway to make it easier for fish and eels to swim up and down the River Frome.

The Environment Agency has started a project to modify weirs on a stretch of the river running through Yate.

The work, on four weirs between Cranleigh Court Road and Goose Green Way, involves cutting notches into three of them.

The fourth is being fitted with eel tiles and baffles.

Eel tiles (pictured above) are blank on one side and have small cones on the other, facing the wall.

Agency experts say that because eels are long and thin, they are not very good swimmers but are very good at wriggling and crawling and can use the gaps between the cones to wriggle through and climb over the weir.

Baffles are long strips of recycled plastic attached to the front of the weir which help to concentrate flows of water by channelling it through notches cut into the plastic (pictured to the left, below), increasing its depth and reducing the speed of the flow, so fish can swim through the notches and over the weir.

The aim of the project is to ensure more fish and eels can reach the more than five miles of river upstream of the weirs, which includes important spawning grounds for some fish species.
This in turn should help increase the number and variety of fish found locally.

The agency says Frome, which flows from Dodington to Bristol's Floating Harbour, is home to brown trout, stone loach, minnow, stickleback, bullhead and the endangered European eel.
The weirs are part of a flood defence scheme built in the 1960s, which funnels high flows of water past Yate to reduce the risk of flooding in the town.

A spokesperson said: "The river was significantly shortened and straightened when the flood scheme was built, and the weirs help prevent erosion of the riverbed."

European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic, floating in their larval form on ocean currents towards Europe.

Once they reach freshwater estuaries like the Bristol Channel, they grow into elvers and swim up rivers, including the Frome, where they spend up to 20 years living, feeding and maturing.

They then swim all the way back to the Sargasso Sea, more than 3,000 miles away, to lay their eggs.

Environment Agency Bristol Frome project manager Heather Barker said work would make the Frome "a better place for people and wildlife".

She said: "The weirs along this stretch of river are surrounded by public open space and alongside the Frome Valley Walkway. 

"We hope the local community will appreciate the work we are doing to improve the local environment and value the river and its habitats."