THREE new initiatives are being launched to help save what has been described as the world’s most trafficked animal – the eel.

Forth Rivers Trust is stepping up efforts this year to conserve and understand the European eel and in April will hold the first conference on them to be held in Scotland.

This will bring together leading eel specialists from around the world to talk about conservation efforts and science.

The conference, in Edinburgh, is aimed at engaging with conservation groups, government organisations and the public across Scotland and further afield, and shows the diverse efforts and opportunities to save the eel. Two rivers – the Leven in Fife and Esks in Midlothian – will be the focus for the Scottish Eel Project to establish population and abundance data for the European eel in Scotland and to increase understanding of how they live in our waters.

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Also, until December 2020, the Forgotten Fish Project is using traditional methods of conservation to tackle current issues and the Forth Rivers Trust is trying to lessen human effects on the species.

Conference speakers will include Willem Dekker of the Sustainable Eel Group, Joe Pecorelli, from the Zoological Society of London, and Derek Evans, of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute.

The trust’s aquatic ecologist, Jack Wootton, 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 April 17.

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