Catching eels in London

A reminder that the River Thames is a living waterway comes with news that Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officers have seized three illegal nets on the tidal Thames in London.

An Environment Agency river patrol uncovered the nets last week at Greenwich. Among the nets found was an unattended gillnet, which can trap fish and wildfowl, and two homemade traps.

There is a licensed eel net fishery which stretches up to Tower Bridge and has developed as water quality in the Thames has improved.

Carl Rasey, an Environment Agency fisheries enforcement officer, said: “These discoveries are disappointing, as legitimate eel netsmen respect the rules.

“Whoever has set these traps is in breach of an emergency close season and has also allowed them to dry out, which is a separate offence. Whilst these traps are primarily set for eels, they often catch a range of other species which will die if the traps are left exposed at low tide.

“Eel populations are declining across Europe but if we want to ensure that Thames eel fisheries continue to be sustainable then this sort of irresponsible behaviour is unacceptable. We would urge anyone who sees suspicious-looking traps to contact us immediately.”

There are just fifteen people licensed to use nets or traps to take eels in the tidal Thames. A condition is that the fishermen send in catch-returns detailing what has been caught during the year.

The close season for netting and trapping eel is between 1 October and 31 March.

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