AFBI Display "Glass Eels" at Castle Espie

Date published: 06 June 2019

Robert Rosell and Warren Campbell of Fisheries and Aquatic Systems Branch (FAEB) held a public display on glass eels at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre, Castle Espie, on 23 March.

As part of AFBI's work to enhance the natural and marine environment, AFBI monitors glass eel movement in Northern Ireland and beyond.  In order to do this FAEB use one of the wetland ponds at Castle Espie as a glass eel monitoring site. The annual immigration to the ponds is recorded, and the event is timed to coincide with the peak of annual immigration of eel from Strangford Lough to the Wetlands. On the 23rd March the eels duly arrived and hundreds were on display in the tanks before release to the ponds. Under the magnifiers the transparent eels allowed visitors to see the eels beating hearts, “morse code” pigmenting backbones and some with dark pigment cells developing.

The spherical glass eel display tank was hugely popular with children of all ages. Robert and Warren clarified some facts to the many questions asked:

  • Warren Campbell (AFBI)
    Warren Campbell (AFBI)
    Are these transparent squiggles really the same fish as the large brown ones harvested in Lough Neagh (Yes);
  • Can you eat them at the glass eel stage (They are still a very expensive starter in Northern Spain);
  • How far do they swim to get here?  (Thousands of Kilometers from the Sargasso Sea by the Carribbean);
  • How long do they live (about 20 years in our rivers and lakes, females are bigger and live longer than males).
  • Is climate change to blame for their decline (Yes, at least in part). Is there still a commercial fishery in Lough Neagh (Yes, producing 300 tonnes and employing up to 200 people in season) ….and more.

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