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Shropshire river is restocked with rare wrigglers

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They're small, they're wriggly and once they were a common sight in Shropshire's rivers.

Andrew Kerr releases eels into the river Severn at Attingham Park

Sadly the county's eel population has been in decline for the past 30 years.

But that is changing. Yesterday more than 1,000 glass eels were released into the River Tern in the grounds of the National Trust's Attingham Park as part of a massive restocking programme.

The project, run by the Severn Rivers Trust and Sustainable Eel group, has already seen about one million eels caught and released.

Those behind the work hope the eels will thrive in the river, and their numbers will gradually increase. Dhiren Katwa, spokesman for the Environment Agency, said the project was taking glass eels from the Lower Severn and relocating them across the region.

Eels being released in to the river Severn at Attingham Park

"By doing so, it helps them to enter waters further upstream which are currently inaccessible due to man-made weirs which the eels cannot pass.

"We hope that introducing a large number of young eels past these barriers will give them a better chance of survival.

"Eels are an endangered species, but elver fishing is an important part of the rural economy. Our rivers are the healthiest for over 20 years, but we are doing even more to further improve water quality and biodiversity."

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Mr Katwa added: "The Environment Agency plays a key role in making sure that rivers and the wildlife they support are maintained and protected."

Staff at the National Trust-run Attingham Park have taken steps to try to increase eel numbers in recent years, even installing an eel pass to help them get beyond the weir.

Children help Bob Thurston release 1000 eels in to the river Severn at Attingham Park.

These barriers have contributed to fall in the eel population because they prevent them reaching inland feeding grounds as part of their natural migration from the sea.

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Bob Thurston, the countryside parks and gardens manager at Attingham Park, said that staff were thrilled to play their part in conservation efforts. "Eels have been on the decline for many years and it's fantastic to be able to help this effort to rescue a species that decades ago would have been a common sight in our rivers," he said.

Record numbers have returned to the River Severn in particular and project organisers are hopeful that the release is another positive step forward.

Visitors were invited to attend the release yesterday when staff gathered by the side of the River Tern near to the Regency mansion house.

Andrew Kerr, chairman of Sustainable Eel Group, said: "Eels are back in huge numbers.

"Hundreds of millions are arriving this year, but they need human help to reach their natural habitats."

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