EELS destined for export to fish farms abroad have been rescued and returned to west Herefordshire waters.

The Golden Valley Fish and Wildlife Association has been working to increase the number of eels in county waters since 2012.

They buy the European eels with funding from supporters and then return them to the county's rivers.

This Easter they saved a further 36,000, which takes the number of eels saved up to 160,000 since the project began.

Project leader Ian McCulloch said: "Information obtained from Herefordshire eel survey trap operators show that mature eel numbers are down by over 99 per cent in the last 30 years.

"The European eel remains critically endangered, and on the IUCN Red List.

"We paid just over £1,300 at £150 per kilo, a good price due to the demand for elvers from exporters."

They are concerned the eels could disappear from local rivers along the Wye and Severn corridor.

But Mr McCulloch said: "Our stocking project appears to be working, as routine fisheries surveys show that eel numbers in our local river are up by 11 times since the start of the project in 2012, in contrast to a total absence or decline elsewhere.

"None of this would have been necessary if these baby eels had been left alone to enter our rivers instead of being exported to fish farms abroad."

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