'Eel Man' Heartbroken By Plans To Ban Eel Fishing

PUBLISHED: 10:10 02 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 04 May 2010

PROPOSALS to ban eel fishing in the Fens have been described as heartbreaking by Eel Man Peter Carter. Known locally as the Eel Man, Mr Carter can trace his eel-trapping heritage back 500 years. He has spoken out against suggestions made by the Enviro

PROPOSALS to ban eel fishing in the Fens have been described as "heartbreaking" by "Eel Man" Peter Carter.

Known locally as the Eel Man, Mr Carter can trace his eel-trapping heritage back 500 years. He has spoken out against suggestions made by the Environment Agency, who want to impose a close season on eel fishing, and local fishery experts, who want to ban eel fishing altogether.

Mr Carter, 44, is believed to be the last trapper operating in the Fens and only a handful of other fishermen are allowed to net eels from the Great Ouse.

He said: "I've spent my whole life around the rivers and it would be gutting if I lost the reason to be on the river.

"I go out in the early morning and evenings and it would be heartbreaking if I had to stop. It is a family trade. My daughter is 12 and she comes out with me.

"I would like to think I could live the rest of my life out on the river and I hoped I could pass my eel license on to my daughter.

"I do a lot of demonstrations at schools and teach the children not just about eel catching but about eels themselves. I tell them about the history of the eel, its lifecycle and where they go. "With me the eel catching doesn't just mean the money, or little of it. It's about being on the Fens, talking to the children and public, and the history that goes with it."

Scientists say eel populations are at less than 10 per cent of 1970s levels. A parasite which infests the creature's swim bladder - which it needs to regulate its depth when swimming at sea - is believed to be responsible.

A letter to the last handful of licensed eel catchers from David Moore, chairman of the Anglian Region's Fisheries, Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee, said the number of young eels returning to East Anglia's rivers from their spawning grounds were at their lowest-ever level.

It says: "Members recommend that commercial eel fishing should be ended and that anglers should return alive all eels they catch until there was an improvement in eel stocks."

7297HD0207: "Eel Man" Peter Carter can trace his eel-trapping heritage back 500 years.

Photo: HELEN DRAKE.


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