Fyke nets used for catching eels removed from River Nene in Fens downstream of Peterborough

THE Environment Agency has removed four nets designed to illegally catch eels from a river in the Fens during the first ever closed season.

Officers were called to a location on the River Nene, just downstream of Peterborough, by an RSPB warden who spotted the fyke nets.

Fyke nets are a bag-shaped net held open by hoops. They are linked together in long chains and are used to catch eels in rivers.

Jake Reeds, environment monitoring officer at the Environment Agency, said: “The four nets were in a string formation set along the north bank of the tidal Nene. They were set without tags, which must be bought by eel fishermen and placed on each of their nets.

“They also didn’t have otter guards which puts at risk other protected animals on the river and not just eels.”

The six-month closed season was imposed by the Environment Agency following calls from the European Commission for all member states to take immediate steps to protect eels and halt their decline.

It came into effect on October 1 to protect eels as they migrate down rivers and out to sea to spawn in the Sargasso Sea.

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The number of young eels returning to rivers across Europe has already fallen by 95 per cent and the Environment Agency will not tolerate the setting of these nets during the closed season.”

Fisheries enforcement staff are out searching for illegal nets and any found during the closed season, like the ones on the Nene, will be confiscated. Anyone found responsible for setting eel nets will be liable to prosecution.

The Environment Agency is also working on new legislation to cap the number of eels allowed to be caught outside of the closed season and anglers who catch eels by rod and line already have to return them.

Mr Reeds said: “We have seen the numbers of eels in our rivers fall over the last few decades, it is vital that we act now to reverse the decline and ensure there are healthy populations of the species in the future.”

Anyone who sees illegal nets in a river should contact the Environment Agency’s emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

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