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Brushes give young eels a leg upriver

PUBLISHED: 17:50 06 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:14 03 July 2010

OVER 14,000 cobweb brushes which have provided a safe haven for water fleas while they clean the water of Barton Broad are to be recycled to give young eels a leg upriver on their journey to find a new home.

OVER 14,000 cobweb brushes which have provided a safe haven for water fleas while they clean the water of Barton Broad are to be recycled to give young eels a leg upriver on their journey to find a new home.

The brushes were installed in Turkey Broad, part of Barton Broad, eight years ago to protect tiny water fleas from predators such as fish and allow them to proliferate and get on with the job of eating the algae which makes the water murky.

The water fleas, or daphnia, were key to the success of the Broads Authority's millennium project, Clear Water 2000, in restoring good water quality to Barton Broad. Now that rare water plants and wildlife, such as otters, have returned the brushes are being removed.

The brushes, which were imported from Italy, have been snapped up by the Environment Agency who plan to use them as “ladders” to help young eels, or elvers, negotiate sluices and weirs in their journey upstream from the Sagasso sea.

Once cleaned, the brushes will be put in pipes running from the bottom to the top of any manmade obstacles to enable the eels to climb up between the bristles and reach their chosen habitat where they will spend the next 10 to 15 years.

Broads Authority Waterways Conservation Officer Beth Williams said: “I am very excited that we are able to reuse the brushes for eel conservation. Because of the decline in the number of eels reaching our coasts it's vital we help the youngsters that do choose to live in our waterways to reach suitable habitats.

“To be able to construct eel ladders from the brushes will be one of several approaches we can use to increase the movement of eels throughout the Broads. This will help maintain biodiversity within the Broads and hopefully increase the number of female eels returning to the Sargasso.”

Tom Howard, Fisheries Technical Officer for the Environment Agency, said: “There is great concern that eel numbers are falling because they are having problems migrating and the brushes could provide the helping hand they need. We are delighted that we can recycle the brushes from the Broads Authority and hopefully they should last quite a long time.”

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