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Management of silver eel: Human impact on downstream migrating silver eel in the River Meuse

In recent decades, a substantial decrease in the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) population has been observed in Europe. The concern is that this might also reflect the situation with silver eels. What is known is that silver eel populations in Europe's rivers are being affected by commercial fishing and deaths are also resulting from eels passing through hydroelectric power turbines. However, there are no figures confirming the death rate caused by these stations. In addition, no comparison has yet been made between the impact of the fisheries and that of the hydropower stations on the river system. This project seeks to redress the situation by studying the relative impact on silver eel populations of fisheries and hydropower stations along the river Meuse, and on a European scale, with the aim of improving eel populations and the sustainability of hydropower stations.

The main goal of this research project is to contribute to the sustainability of eel fisheries and hydropower electricity generation in European waters. To achieve this, a research programme has been developed for the river Meuse area with the following objectives:
1) to monitor the catch of silver eels by professional fisherman in the river Meuse
2) to monitor the cumulative mortality of downstream migrating silver eels passing two Dutch hydro-power stations on the river Meuse, on the basis of innovative telemetric methods
3) to assess the impact of hydro-power stations and fisheries on the eel population in the entire Meuse system
4) to test an early warning system for predicting when silver eel migration peaks at the two Dutch hydropower stations, Linne and Lith, along the river Meuse
5) to develop a turbine management system as a tool to protect silver eels passing turbines, thus improving the sustainability of hydropower stations based on the early warning system
6) to show the Migromat and Nedap Trail systems at Linne and Lith hydropower stations on the river Meuse to European and national authorities and power companies.

Progress to Date
All the activities described in the work packages have been performed. The results are being collated into a final report, describing and discussing the overall results.

The results of the investigation provided accurate insight into the typical migration pattern of silver eel in Europe's rivers. The use of the telemetric method has proven to be a very good tool. In addition, the impact on downstream migrating silver eel, from both commercial fisheries and hydropower stations (cumulative mortality) in the river Meuse, was assessed to establish a population level. The results of the Migromat system, in combination with data from the fisheries' catches and on migration activity by telemetry and turbine passage sampling, clearly indicate that this early warning system assists in creating an 'eel-friendly' turbine system. By stopping the turbines when the system sends a 'warning' during migration (peaks with actual high migration activity in the river), a substantial number of the silver eel population can pass the hydropower station safely.


Scientist responsible for the project

Utrechtseweg 310 Box 9035
6800 ET Arnhem
Netherlands (The) - NL

Phone: +31 263 563573
Fax: +31 264 454659


Project ID QLRT-1999-31141
Organisation KEMA Nederland b.v.
Area 5.1.2
Start date 10 January 2000
Duration (months) 24
Total cost 933 325 €
Total EC contribution   400 000 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project

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