A TOTAL of 10,000 elvers were released into the River Coln near Fairford last weekend as part of World Fish Migration Day.

Leading the campaign, environment minister Lord de Mauley joined members of the Sustainable Eel Group and Fairford-based charity the Ernest Cook Trust to re-home thousands of the baby eels into the river.

The River Coln is known to be an ideal habitat for the eels and gives them free movement around the top of the Thames river. It is also upriver of serious obstacles and barriers which many fish and eels struggle to pass.

All of the elvers were taken from the River Severn which witnessed a record eel migration this year. It is thought that as many as 30 times more elvers arrived this year than in 2009.

The European eel is a critically endangered species and since the 1970s, numbers are believed to have declined by around 90 per cent and possibly as much as 98 per cent. Contributing factors include overfishing, parasites and barriers to migration.

Lord de Mauley said: “Record numbers of elvers have arrived on our western shores this year, prompting a massive human rescue effort to move them past barriers to the habitats that they’re struggling to reach in order to grow and mature.

“It’s a welcome return of a species that is critically endangered, and I am pleased that so much is being done in the UK to help the eel populations recover.”

The re-homing of thousands of elvers across the country is being done to help the young eels move past barriers and into areas they struggle to reach.

Over 90 million elvers have been moved to new homes across Europe as part of the initiative.

Chairman of the Sustainable Eel Group Andrew Kerr said he was delighted that so much has been done to help eels in England and Wales in the last three years.

“A huge number of people have mobilised to help the eels,” he said. “But projects are under way to allow eels to migrate and move freely without human help in future.”