Eels detected in waterways in Stroud following success of local wildlife project

The eel pass at Arundel Mill Pond. Credit: Stroud Valleys Project

Eels have been detected in the waterways in Stroud following the success of a local wildlife project.

The species of fish once thrived in the waterways around Stroud but habitat loss, overfishing and artificial barriers blocking rivers meant that numbers fell drastically, including in the River Frome.

In 2021 a local charity Stroud Valleys Project developed an eel pass at Arundel Mill Pond near the town centre in a bid to see their return to the area.

The landscape work was carried out by contractors with the rest of the project being undertaken by volunteers.

Tamsin Bent, SVP project officer said: “The sluice gate at Arundel Millpond, which has been there for the last couple of hundred years, has made it nearly impossible for eels to travel upstream to find suitable places to live and feed.”

“They need to spend many years in our rivers preparing for their long journey back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

“We worked with partners including Severn Rivers Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (Slimbridge), the Environment Agency and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group to install an eel ‘ladder’ or pass so they can travel upstream.

"Our volunteers worked really hard, pulling debris out of the river, planting new water plants and clearing the land of invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam.

“Eels can wriggle around some structures if there is foliage and grass next to the river, but the sluice gate at Arundel Mill Pond is made of concrete and metal, and they can’t get around it.” 

In August, Dr Laura Weldon from WWT Slimbridge, a wetland wildlife reserve in Gloucestershire, collected water samples to test for eel DNA.

Dr. Laura Weldon at Arundel Mill Pond taking samples. Credit: Stroud Valleys Project

The results proved the project had been a success, with Laura saying: "In year 1, we didn’t detect eel DNA.

"In year 2, we detected eel DNA below Arundel Mill but not above. This year, we detected eel DNA in multiple samples along the [River] Frome.

"Great to see evidence of increased eel activity in the Frome now the eel pass is established."