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I’ve been spending a lot of time working in the home office recently, as many of our normal outdoor activities are on hold. So, I was very glad to be able to go out this week and meet with my colleague Scot on the Almond in Cramond to check an eel trap at Fair-a-Far weir.

There is parking near the weir, but I went down to the car park down in Cramond village and took the opportunity for a wander up the river from its mouth at the Forth. It was a lovely sunny morning, and there was a lot to see.

There were plenty of mallards with some young ones in tow, and some swans sailing around majestically down near the boat club. I met Scot, and we headed up towards the weir. Further up, near the old Fair-a-Far mill building, we saw a female goosander with a trail of juveniles struggling against the current. Upstream from the weir, perched in a cherry tree on the far bank, a grey heron watched us impassively as we got to work.

We crossed the river and made our way to the eel trap, one of many that our colleague Jack has put out in various spots in rivers around the Forth catchment. He is collecting data for The Forgotten Fish Project, which focuses on the critically endangered European eel.

 

The project aims to use and share traditional methods of conservation to help lessen the human impact on eels and educate and raise awareness of the species and the issues they face. Jack has run workshops and educational days, and more recently created some great informative videos all about the European eel. They can be found on The Forgotten Fish Project page on the Forth Rivers Trust website.

One of the uses of the data gathered from these eel traps is to help Jack determine the effectiveness of the eel ladder installed along with the Larinier fish pass at Fair-a-Far a couple of years ago as part of the RiverLife project.

 

 

Scot and I collected all the eels that were in the trap. This was my first chance to have more than a fleeting look at an eel, and we were lucky that we ended up with fourteen in our bucket! We then went through the process of measuring and weighing them all. It isn’t easy to get an eel to stay still lying against the ruler or sitting in the scales! Most of them were elvers, which is a stage of the eel life cycle that they reach when they travel into freshwater systems. Elvers are fully pigmented, but one or two of the smaller ones we found in the trap were still mostly transparent; these are called glass eels, the stage before they become elvers.

Most of them were around a similar size, but one was a few inches longer and about eight times heavier than the rest. It was huge compared to the others, but it isn’t so big in the grand scheme of things, as in the final stage of their life cycle when they become silver eels they can grow to over a metre long!

A couple of families came over to have a look as we were weighing and measuring, so we were able to have a chat about eels and what we were doing with them.  Once we’d finished recording all the data, we released all the eels back into the river a little upstream from the weir, and then took ourselves back down the river. All in all it was a very nice way to spend the morning – a lovely walk by the river and a new experience with a bit of practical science.