SCOTLAND’S first eel summit is to be staged in Edinburgh in a bid to help conserve and understand the nation’s “forgotten fish”.

Specialists from all over the world will gather at Napier University on April 17 for the Scottish Eel Conference, which aims to put the critically endangered European eel in the spotlight.

Organised by the Forth Rivers Trust, the conference is one of three new initiatives for 2020 designed to help save the fish described as “the world’s most trafficked animal”. 

Two further projects focusing on eels within Scotland will run throughout the year.

Included on the World Wildlife Foundation’s Top Ten Traded Species, the European eel has seen numbers decline by 95% across the continent in the past 30 years due to poaching and overfishing to supply markets in Asia.

Other threats include water management, water pollution, migration barriers at sluices and pumps, new parasites and diseases, predation from seabirds and possibly climate change.

The conference will bring policy makers and leading professionals together at Napier’s Craiglockhart Campus to discuss current conservation efforts and the leading science.

Talks will focus on the incredible journey of the eel from their breeding place in the Sargasso sea, in the Western Atlantic between the Azores and the Caribbean, to Europe; threats facing the fish; and the work people across the world are doing to preserve eel species.

The summit’s aim will be to “engage with conservation groups, government organisations and the public across Scotland and further and show the diverse effort and opportunities to save the eel”.

Jack Wootton, the Trust’s Aquatic Ecologist, who will lead the conference, said: “This mysterious animal still holds many secrets and collective efforts are helping to unveil some of the answers.

“From the enthusiasm generated by this event we aim to increase the efforts to conserve and understand eels in Scotland as well as diversify funding opportunities for these projects.

“We welcome anyone with an interest in this fascinating animal to join us in Edinburgh on the 17th of April.

“This is a unique opportunity to be involved in the first eel conference in Scotland and shape the conservation of the species.”

The Scottish Eel Conference, part of the Scottish-Government-funded “RiverLife: Almond and Avon” project, is one of three eel initiatives being developed by the Firth Rivers Trust this year.

Running throughout 2020, The Scottish Eel Project will establish population and abundance data across two rivers, the River Leven in Fife and the Midlothian Esks, for the European eel in Scotland, and to increase the understanding of how eels live within our waters.

Also running until December 2020, The Forgotten Fish Project uses traditional methods of conservation to tackle current issues affecting the European eel and lessen human effects on the species.