A WILDLIFE group is continuing to work to save baby eels from extinction and return them to the River Wye.

The Golden Valley Fish and Wildlife Association is planning to restock 2million baby eels - also known as elvers - to the river and its tributaries within five years.

According to the association - which started the project to save the species last April - tens of millions of baby eels are caught every year and exported to fish farms in Europe and the Far East, despite the European eels being an endangered species.

A total of 88,000 baby eels were saved and restocked this month alone, and association chairman Nick Longman said: “Our number one aim is to influence the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to impose a precautionary ban on the live export of elvers from our rivers.

"Elver fishing used to be a local traditional pastime. Now it is being driven by the large-scale export of our eels abroad at a time when they are disappearing from local rivers along the Wye and Severn corridor.

"We urge people to beware of the self-promotion of commercial fishery groups who claim to be restocking eels into our rivers to give themselves the badge of sustainability. They may be only restocking eels they themselves have removed, while sending a much higher percentage abroad for sale.

"In our local river here in the Golden Valley, an adult eel is a rare creature. Our rivers should be stuffed-full of them, and they were once so plentiful that they were an important food source for people and wildlife.

"We are not against traditional small-scale elver fishing but eels are known to have declined by about 90 per cent since the 1970s, so continuing this export trade is madness.”

Speaking at the start of the project last year, project leader Ian McCulloch, said: “Buying and re-stocking returning baby eels back into their native rivers to assist their survival is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your local brook, pond, lake or river.”

This year the association is on track to save and restock more than 124,000 eels thanks to help and donations from individuals and partner groups such as the International Otter Survival Fund, Abbey Forestry Ltd, Duchy of Cornwall (Herefordshire), and the Wye Salmon Association.

To sign an online petition to stop the commercial export of baby eels, visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-the-commercial-export-of-baby-eels.

For more email goldenvalleyfishandwildlife@hotmail.co.uk or call 077877 11797.