Critically Endangered Species Given a Boost in the River Annan

05 May 2022
Eel in a wooden box

A European Eel: Photo courtesy of Zoological Society of London

underwater metal structure

An Eel pass was installed at Milnby Weir on the River Annan

A £40,000 environmental project to bring back a species more endangered than the Giant Panda to the upper reaches of the River Annan has been completed.

A new 12-metre long Eel Pass over Milnby Weir will open up a further 675 KM of the River Annan and its tributaries to the critically endangered European eel and other species, such as lamprey.

The weir, first built in the 1950s to provide water to the Chapelcross nuclear power station, acts as a barrier for the European Eel but the joint project - run in partnership with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Magnox Ltd, SEPA and Scottish Water - will dramatically improve the eco-system and upgrade the majority of the catchment from ‘poor’ to ‘good’ ecological status.

Euan Innes, Asset Planner from Scottish Water, said: “Scottish Water is delighted to be helping return this globally rare and declining species of eel to the upper reaches of the River Annan. By working alongside our project partners, we have returned the majority of the catchment to good ecological status and provided a vast new habitat for eels and other species.”

hand holding an eel

The European Eel

This species is on the Critically Endangered list. Photo courtesy of the Zoological Society of London

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, European Eels are extremely likely to become extinct in the immediate future making them more vulnerable than the Giant Panda. Numbers have declined across the continent by around 90% since the 1970s.

Head of Water and Planning at SEPA, Nathan Critchlow-Watton, said: “Rivers are a vital part of our landscape and a great asset to Scotland. This project, driven by SEPA’s regulatory requirements, is the culmination of several years of working with Scottish Water and Magnox. We’re so happy to see this work now complete and are confident it will lead to improved access for eels to the whole catchment and significant improvements in many water bodies.”

Chapelcross Site Director, Richard Murray, said: “Sustainability and environmental remediation is at the core of the NDA’s mission and our work to decommission the Chapelcross site. The project at Milnby Weir is an excellent example of how we can provide a positive improvement for the environment in which we operate.” 
For more information on the River Annan and the condition of the water environment please visit the SEPA’s Water Environment Hub at:

For more information on the Zoological Society's work on Eel conservations, please see: