The actions of the Project

Like all projects financed by the LIFE instrument of the European Community, LIFEEL is structured according to a precise scheme of actions which include: a package of preparatory and preparatory actions for the actual conservation actions, indicated by the letter “A”; a package of conservation actions “C”, which includes all the concrete interventions put in place by the project for the conservation – in this case – of the target species Anguilla; a set of “D” actions to monitor the effectiveness of the conservation actions carried out by the project, for the verification of the actual results achieved; an “E” action group of dissemination, education and involvement of the various target groups and stakeholders identified by the project; an “F” group of actions to manage and coordinate all work and partnership. The actions of the LIFEEL Project:

Start of the Project

With this initial action, each project partner takes the first strategic steps for the consolidation of the partnership, the definition of the working groups, the formation of the overall coordination and management team of the entire project, composed of representatives of all the partners: the so-called “STEERING COMMITTEE”. With this action are also identified and implemented the first of procedures for entrusting the external tasks foreseen and necessary from the first year, such as that related to the Project Manager.

The A1 is an initial management action of the project activities and has a duration of a few months, subsequently, for the entire duration of the project, the management will be carried out with the F1 Action. The agreements between the beneficiary Coordinator and the partners have been signed and each partner has defined its own organizational chart that will be used in the project, moreover, the procedures for the assignment of the external tasks envisaged have been started.

Progress 100%

Protocol for the selection of the best breeders

In the first year of the project, with this action a protocol is developed for the recognition and selection of the best breeders – the best “Silver eels” – to be released into the wild. This protocol is not only applied within the framework of the project (Action C1) with restocking, but is also promoted and encouraged its application by valley growers and breeders, in order to effectively increase the reproductive potential of the natural eel population.
The protocol is based on biometric parameters that are easy to measure and evaluate, to facilitate their application in the field as much as possible.

Action A2 was a preparatory action and it is preparatory for the implementation of other actions. The action was carried out in Italy and Greece. The developed protocol allows to identify the migrants’ eels from pre-migrants one, thanks to some morphometric parameters.

The protocol was developed in Italy by dr. Mordenti of the University of Bologna (Dip. Veterinary Medical Sciences) in collaboration with the University of Ferrara, the Parks of the Po Delta of Emilia and that of Veneto. Dr. Sapounidis, from the Fisheries Research Institute, intercalibrated the protocol in Greece.

The definition of the protocol was reached analyzing 7 eel populations of the upper Adriatic: 6 falls within the valley areas of the Po Delta Park of Veneto (Valle Bonello, Valle San Carlo, Valle Cà Pasta, Valle Scanarello) and Emilia-Romagna (Valli di Comacchio and Valle Nuova) and 1 located further north within the valley area of Marano-Grado. The Greek population was investigated taking into account the population present in the Vistonida valley area within the National Park of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The sampling campaigns involved the morphometric analysis of over 1.600 adult eel females.

The protocol works through the insertion in the program of only two morphometric parameters (total length and diameter of the eye). It will be possible to characterize the according to 3 different stages: resident eels (non-migrant), fully migrating eels (100%) and eels with a degree of migration greater than 90%. Thanks to this LIFEEL product, operators in the sector can count on a valid tool able to make a selection of the most valid breeders to be released to support reproduction in the wild, ensuring a further important step forward in the conservation of eel. The protocol and its instructions can be downloaded from the homepage of this site.

Progress 100%

Designing eels passages

This action is preparatory to Action C3 of construction  the passages.
Specific structures are designed for the Eel, in particular for its youth stages, to allow it to overcome artificial barriers otherwise insurable in their journey of ascent of waterways to reach the areas of growth.

During this action, 7 structures were designed to restore the upstream migration of young eels in the Po basin in Italy and in the Nestos River in Greece. The executive projects have been forwarded to the competent authorities and specifically concern the construction of six blue infrastructures in Italy and one in Greece. In Italy, three ramps have been designed on the Panaro River and two passages for fish and a specific passage for eels in the Po delta. Instead, in Greece the passage for eels was planned on the Toxotes dam.

Progress 100%

Analysis and guidelines to favor the downstream migration to the sea in the Po basin

This action addresses one of the threats that most affect the entire natural stock of eel, not only the population of the Po basin: the spread of hydroelectric power plants on the river grid. Mature eels, potential breeding animals that have embarked on their journey of descent of waterways into the sea, can come across turbines and the latter, if not properly designed, can turn out to be real deadly traps for eels. With this action will be carried out the first systematic reconnaissance of all the hydroelectric power plants present on the grid of main interest for the eel, in the plain basin of the River Po, coming to define the best mitigation solutions and therefore the GUIDELINES FOR THE COMPATIBILITY OF HYDROELECTRIC STRUCTURES WITH THE DOWNHILL MIGRATION OF SILVER EELS (sub-action A4.1). An experimental eel deterrence system will also be designed with sub-action A4.2: a device capable of deterring the eel from taking the water supply channel to the hydroelectric power plant.

The activities foreseen in the two sub-actions are over. The Sub-action 4.1 saw the analysis of about 2.000 km of river corridor within the Po basin in which 30 hydroelectric power plants representing a threat to the eel were identified. A characterization of these plants was carried out through which it was then possible to define a list of priorities for intervention. The information was included in a dedicated Geodatabase and was useful to produce the Guidelines for the compliance of hydroelectric structures to the dismantling of adult eels.

In sub-action 4.2, an experimental system was designed to avoid the entrance of eels at the intake of the Enel Green Power plant in Creva on the Tresa River. The project involves the construction of a metal grid on which submerged strobe lights will be applied at the water intake metal grid of the plant.

Progress 100%

Plan of priority measures to restore river connectivity for eel

With this action, or rather with sub-action A5.1, the first “Plan to restore the continuity and connection of the main river network at basin scale, both in Italy in the lowland sector of the Po basin, and in Greece, in the Basin of the River Nestos, will be drawn up.
With action A5.2, the GUIDELINES for the compatibility of hydroelectric works with the descent of Silver eels will instead be developed.

Sub-action 5.1 provides for the implementation of an intervention plan of the works to be carried out for the conservation of the eel and to date all the territorial, environmental, geographical and structural information useful for the realization of the plan has been collected. As a first step, the priority river corridor has been defined, in Italy it includes the lowland part of the Po basin with its main tributaries, on all those that connect it with the great pre-Alpine lakes. A similar activity has also been carried out in Greece.

Sub-action 5.2 was carried out with a meeting attended by several companies in the hydroelectric sector and operating in the field of water derivation. In this meeting the problems related to the mortality of eels transiting through the turbines and all the related problems were discussed. In the next phases, the Po Fishing Council will also be involved to define and share the salient points of the Plan. In Greece, the draft guidelines will be shared with the Ministry of the Environment.

Progress 65%

Release of selected silver eels into the wild

Throughout the project, using the selection protocol developed with action A2, Silver eels will be released annually, selected as “most promising” breeding, precisely to increase the reproductive potential of the natural population of eel. This action will be carried out in Italy and Greece. The technical and scientific coordination for the activities in Italy will be carried out by the University of Ferrara with the participation of the University of Bologna, the parks of the Po Veneto delta and Emiliano. In Greece, the action will be led by the Fisheries Research Institute – ELGO DIMITRA and in both countries the involvement of valliculture and fishermen will be crucial.

The silver eels selected on the basis of the protocol developed in Action A2 will be released into the sea during the 4 years of the project, in the final months of each year (from August to December). The initial phase monitoring of these breeders will be carried out through Action D1.2 and thanks to the tag systems with which the eels will be equipped.

The specimens will be marked before release with different technologies available: T-anchor tag (applied externally), acoustic transmitters (implanted in the fish cavity) and pop-up satellite tags. The action will continue until the end of the project and to date (September 2023) a total of 3.243 spawning stock have been released into the sea in Italy and Greece.

Progress 80%

Development of a captive breeding program for eels larvae and release into the wild

The primary objective of this action is to contrast a practice that is still widespread throughout the range of the species of collection into the wild of large quantities of eels at youth stages for human consumption or breeding, however also aimed at consumption.
With this action a completely original method is developed and applied, to study by the University of Bologna for some years, which allows the reproduction in captivity of sexually mature subjects and therefore the first growth of larvae, until the moment of liberation into nature, which takes place at sea.

With this action is developed and applied the reproduction in captivity of sexually mature subjects and the first growth of the larvae, until the moment of release into the wild, which takes place at sea. Starting from 2021 for each breeding season a part of the leptocephalus obtained from artificial reproduction have been released.

The activities that are carried out annually begin from September / October with the preparation of the tanks in which the breeders will be hosted. The breeders are selected in the months of November and December with the application of the protocol for the selection of the best breeders, after which until July a series of very important phases take place including hormonal induction for sexual maturation and spontaneous reproduction. The fertilized eggs are incubated and, after hatching, the leptocephalus are fed for a first growth until they are released into the sea. During the project and until March 2023, 2.000.000 leptocephalus were released into the sea.

Progress 80%

Realization of eels passages for upstream migration of young eels

The passages to allow free up-stream migration, specific to young eels, designed with the A3 action will be carried out in Italy at three different sites of the Po Delta and on the Panaro River and and in Greece, along the River Nesto At the Toxotes Dam. Two ramps that will be built on the Panaro River will be built not only for young eels, but for all fish fauna, thus restoring river connectivity in the stretch of plain and hill.

The final projects for the construction of the fish passages have been completed and the bureaucratic process has been started in Italy and Greece to assign the construction of these works to specialized companies.

Progress 35%

Implementation of a deterrence system for downstream migration of eels

With this action the experimental deterrence system designed during Action A4 will be realized and installed at the Creva dam (Province of Varese) on the Tresa River. The deterrence system will be calibrated and its effectiveness in deterring eel from taking the route to the turbines of the hydropower plant will be assessed.
Action A4.2 defines the type of experimental deterrent system that will be installed in the Creva dam on the Tesa River in the Province of Varese. The experimental system designed involves the use of submerged strobe lights applied in the inner part of the grid present at the intake of the power house. The LED lights will be able to emit a fixed light or an intermittent light with a variable frequency and intensity, moreover, thanks to a system of detection of the level of the reservoir, only submerged lights will be on.
The experimental eel deterrent system is being assembled at the headquarters of the company in charge of the construction and the works for the installation of the system will begin in early 2024.
Progress 45%

Monitoring the effectiveness of selected silver eels releases

The purpose of this Action is to verify, on the one hand, the validity of the protocol for the selection of the best eel breeding animals developed with Action A2; on the other hand, the effectiveness of silver eels restocking in increasing the wild stock will be assessed.

This action moves on two fronts: first, there is the selection of the best breeders and a constant monitoring of the production of fertilized eggs and the subsequent stages of development. Second, there is the activity concerning the monitoring of the first migratory phases of the selected and marked adult specimens with the involvement of sport and professional fishermen. To facilitate the reporting of any marked eels, a brochure was produced and delivered to fishermen and fish markets. In addition, the LIFEEL Alert online reporting system (available on this website at the following link https://lifeel.eu/fai-la-tua-segnalazione/) has been activated.

During the 2021/2022 breeding season, a total of 143 breeding animals were selected and about 2.600.000 leptocephalus were obtained. The data for the 2022/2023 season are not available yet, but 156 breeders were selected.

The migration monitoring of the selected spawning stock towards the Sargasso Sea will be made with three systems: T-anchor Tag (plastic elastomer applied externally), acoustic transmitter (inserted in the celomatic cavity of the fish) and Pop-up Tag (applied externally and able to release a component towards the surface of the water traceable by GPS). Altogether to date (October 2023), in Italy and Greece, more than 1.000 specimens with T-anchor Tags have been marked, just over 100 with acoustic transmitter and 14 specimens with pop-up tags. The results are encouraging, because several specimens have been “tracked” even at important distances (more than 140 km traveled in 15 days) from the place of release, confirming the reliability of the selection protocol developed.

Progress 75%

Monitoring the effectiveness of the passages built in Action C3 and monitoring of the deterrence system

This Action monitors the ex-ante phase and  the ex-post phase the migration of eel specimens to environments where they will spend the accretion phase in the inland waters. The monitoring will verify the effectiveness of the eel passages built with the Action C3 and the effectiveness of the deterrence system installed at the Creva Dam. The latter will be useful for the implementation of the guidelines developed in Action A5.

The University of Ferrara has activated the monitoring of both young eels moving upstream and of Argentine eels moving downstream, the first data are not very encouraging and in fact follow a bit the state of health of this species in Italy. In these monitoring activities, a situation of considerable criticality has emerged with a timing of migration that is moved forward compared to the past: the glass eels expected from the end of November to the beginning of December, now arrive between the end of February and the beginning of March. Even from the continuous monitoring activity in the passage for fish of Isola Serafini on the Po River (work carried out as part of the Life Con.flu.Po project (https://www.life-conflupo.eu/index.php?lang=en), which has been active since the beginning of the project, no good news arrives. In fact, only 3 adult eels have been observed migrating downstream, while no eel specimens have been observed from the fish passage.

Also in Creva, where a deterrent system will be installed, investigations will be conducted via acoustic telemetry to evaluate its effectiveness both before and after the construction of the bollard.

The monitoring will continue until the end of the project and will include monitoring of the fish passages planned in Italy and Greece once they are completed.

Progress 45%

Monitoring of the results of the breeding programme for juvenile stages of eel

Action D3 monitors and evaluates the success of the experimental protocol of production in captivity of the eel developed and implemented with Action C2.

This action aims to monitor the results of artificial reproduction at different stages of larval development on the basis of different diets subjected to leptocephalus.

Annually about 400.000 leptocephalus are fed differently in order to find the best feeding system. Before the start of the project, the attractiveness rate towards the food administered was poor, however, thanks to the new diets tested, a survival rate of almost 50% of leptocephalus of 21-25 days of life emerged.

Progress 75%

Monitoring of the overall impact of the project

Fundamental action to evaluate the overall success of the Project and to calibrate the progress of the individual actions. It will be carried out throughout the project and will involve all partners.

This action assesses the impact of the project through the general monitoring of the project and through the monitoring of the socio-economic impact and ecosystem services. The control of the general progress of the project takes place through constant coordination between the leader and the project partners. The monitoring of socio-economic impact and the ecosystem services were conducted with three questionnaires submitted to the main stakeholders.

Progress 75%

Information and awareness raising activities

Project communication action, in this action will be implemented various initiatives and products aimed at informing and raising awareness among the population and the different categories of stakeholders about the urgency of taking action for the conservation of the eel and the activities of the project itself.

The initiatives and products aimed at informing and raising awareness among the population and the various categories of stakeholders have been carried out on several fronts. The website is an important point of reference for all those who want to know the project and it is connected to a Facebook and Instagram page thanks to which it is possible to disseminate effectively and quickly all the news of the Project. In addition, there is also a YouTube channel on which videos of some of the project activities are uploaded.

The awareness and communication plan also includes the creation of: newsletters, press releases, information panels, brochures, t-shirts and gadgets.

Numerous dissemination events have been carried out in Italy and Greece, on these occasions they have been involved, in addition to stakeholders, even ordinary citizens. The Project has also been presented several times in important television and radio programs.

Finally, raising awareness among young people is also an important aspect of this action, so far about 2.000 students have been involved in Italy and Greece.

Progress 85%

Technical dissemination and networking

Information, technical and scientific exchange and cooperation with other research groups dealing with similar activities in other parts of the European Union

The action includes among the activities the technical-scientific dissemination thanks to which 11 scientific publications on the activities carried out within the project and a technical article have been realized. In addition, the working group has participated in 12 events where the results obtained have been presented.

Networking with other projects is planned too and LIFEEL has already come into contact with 9 different projects and has started networking actions with 6 projects.

Progress 85%

Project management and After LIFE activities

Management and general coordination of the project ensured through a defined management structure that involves the whole partnership and is favored by the presence of a single Project Manager. In addition, the After LIFE plan will be drawn up and implemented when the project is completed, in order to give continuity to the eel conservation measures undertaken during the Project.

Progress 75%

The actions of the Project

Like all projects financed by the LIFE instrument of the European Community, LIFEEL is structured according to a precise scheme of actions which include: a package of preparatory and preparatory actions for the actual conservation actions, indicated by the letter “A”; a package of conservation actions “C”, which includes all the concrete interventions put in place by the project for the conservation – in this case – of the target species Anguilla; a set of “D” actions to monitor the effectiveness of the conservation actions carried out by the project, for the verification of the actual results achieved; an “E” action group of dissemination, education and involvement of the various target groups and stakeholders identified by the project; an “F” group of actions to manage and coordinate all work and partnership. The actions of the LIFEEL Project:

Start of the Project

Progress 100%

With this initial action, each project partner takes the first strategic steps for the consolidation of the partnership, the definition of the working groups, the formation of the overall coordination and management team of the entire project, composed of representatives of all the partners: the so-called “STEERING COMMITTEE”. With this action are also identified and implemented the first of procedures for entrusting the external tasks foreseen and necessary from the first year, such as that related to the Project Manager.

The A1 is an initial management action of the project activities and has a duration of a few months, subsequently, for the entire duration of the project, the management will be carried out with the F1 Action. The agreements between the beneficiary Coordinator and the partners have been signed and each partner has defined its own organizational chart that will be used in the project, moreover, the procedures for the assignment of the external tasks envisaged have been started.

Protocol for the selection of the best breeders

Progress 100%
In the first year of the project, with this action a protocol is developed for the recognition and selection of the best breeders – the best “Silver eels” – to be released into the wild. This protocol is not only applied within the framework of the project (Action C1) with restocking, but is also promoted and encouraged its application by valley growers and breeders, in order to effectively increase the reproductive potential of the natural eel population.
The protocol is based on biometric parameters that are easy to measure and evaluate, to facilitate their application in the field as much as possible.

Action A2 was a preparatory action and it is preparatory for the implementation of other actions. The action was carried out in Italy and Greece. The developed protocol allows to identify the migrants’ eels from pre-migrants one, thanks to some morphometric parameters.

The protocol was developed in Italy by dr. Mordenti of the University of Bologna (Dip. Veterinary Medical Sciences) in collaboration with the University of Ferrara, the Parks of the Po Delta of Emilia and that of Veneto. Dr. Sapounidis, from the Fisheries Research Institute, intercalibrated the protocol in Greece.

The definition of the protocol was reached analyzing 7 eel populations of the upper Adriatic: 6 falls within the valley areas of the Po Delta Park of Veneto (Valle Bonello, Valle San Carlo, Valle Cà Pasta, Valle Scanarello) and Emilia-Romagna (Valli di Comacchio and Valle Nuova) and 1 located further north within the valley area of Marano-Grado. The Greek population was investigated taking into account the population present in the Vistonida valley area within the National Park of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The sampling campaigns involved the morphometric analysis of over 1.600 adult eel females.

The protocol works through the insertion in the program of only two morphometric parameters (total length and diameter of the eye). It will be possible to characterize the according to 3 different stages: resident eels (non-migrant), fully migrating eels (100%) and eels with a degree of migration greater than 90%. Thanks to this LIFEEL product, operators in the sector can count on a valid tool able to make a selection of the most valid breeders to be released to support reproduction in the wild, ensuring a further important step forward in the conservation of eel. The protocol and its instructions can be downloaded from the homepage of this site.

Designing eels passages

Progress 100%
This action is preparatory to Action C3 of construction  the passages.
Specific structures are designed for the Eel, in particular for its youth stages, to allow it to overcome artificial barriers otherwise insurable in their journey of ascent of waterways to reach the areas of growth.

During this action, 7 structures were designed to restore the upstream migration of young eels in the Po basin in Italy and in the Nestos River in Greece. The executive projects have been forwarded to the competent authorities and specifically concern the construction of six blue infrastructures in Italy and one in Greece. In Italy, three ramps have been designed on the Panaro River and two passages for fish and a specific passage for eels in the Po delta. Instead, in Greece the passage for eels was planned on the Toxotes dam.

Analysis and guidelines to favor the downstream migration to the sea in the Po basin

Progress 100%

This action addresses one of the threats that most affect the entire natural stock of eel, not only the population of the Po basin: the spread of hydroelectric power plants on the river grid. Mature eels, potential breeding animals that have embarked on their journey of descent of waterways into the sea, can come across turbines and the latter, if not properly designed, can turn out to be real deadly traps for eels. With this action will be carried out the first systematic reconnaissance of all the hydroelectric power plants present on the grid of main interest for the eel, in the plain basin of the River Po, coming to define the best mitigation solutions and therefore the GUIDELINES FOR THE COMPATIBILITY OF HYDROELECTRIC STRUCTURES WITH THE DOWNHILL MIGRATION OF SILVER EELS (sub-action A4.1). An experimental eel deterrence system will also be designed with sub-action A4.2: a device capable of deterring the eel from taking the water supply channel to the hydroelectric power plant.

The activities foreseen in the two sub-actions are over. The Sub-action 4.1 saw the analysis of about 2.000 km of river corridor within the Po basin in which 30 hydroelectric power plants representing a threat to the eel were identified. A characterization of these plants was carried out through which it was then possible to define a list of priorities for intervention. The information was included in a dedicated Geodatabase and was useful to produce the Guidelines for the compliance of hydroelectric structures to the dismantling of adult eels.

In sub-action 4.2, an experimental system was designed to avoid the entrance of eels at the intake of the Enel Green Power plant in Creva on the Tresa River. The project involves the construction of a metal grid on which submerged strobe lights will be applied at the water intake metal grid of the plant.

Plan of priority measures to restore river connectivity for eel

Progress 65%
With this action, or rather with sub-action A5.1, the first “Plan to restore the continuity and connection of the main river network at basin scale, both in Italy in the lowland sector of the Po basin, and in Greece, in the Basin of the River Nestos, will be drawn up.
With action A5.2, the GUIDELINES for the compatibility of hydroelectric works with the descent of Silver eels will instead be developed.

Sub-action 5.1 provides for the implementation of an intervention plan of the works to be carried out for the conservation of the eel and to date all the territorial, environmental, geographical and structural information useful for the realization of the plan has been collected. As a first step, the priority river corridor has been defined, in Italy it includes the lowland part of the Po basin with its main tributaries, on all those that connect it with the great pre-Alpine lakes. A similar activity has also been carried out in Greece.

Sub-action 5.2 was carried out with a meeting attended by several companies in the hydroelectric sector and operating in the field of water derivation. In this meeting the problems related to the mortality of eels transiting through the turbines and all the related problems were discussed. In the next phases, the Po Fishing Council will also be involved to define and share the salient points of the Plan. In Greece, the draft guidelines will be shared with the Ministry of the Environment.

Release of selected silver eels into the wild

Progress 80%

Throughout the project, using the selection protocol developed with action A2, Silver eels will be released annually, selected as “most promising” breeding, precisely to increase the reproductive potential of the natural population of eel. This action will be carried out in Italy and Greece. The technical and scientific coordination for the activities in Italy will be carried out by the University of Ferrara with the participation of the University of Bologna, the parks of the Po Veneto delta and Emiliano. In Greece, the action will be led by the Fisheries Research Institute – ELGO DIMITRA and in both countries the involvement of valliculture and fishermen will be crucial.

The silver eels selected on the basis of the protocol developed in Action A2 will be released into the sea during the 4 years of the project, in the final months of each year (from August to December). The initial phase monitoring of these breeders will be carried out through Action D1.2 and thanks to the tag systems with which the eels will be equipped.

The specimens will be marked before release with different technologies available: T-anchor tag (applied externally), acoustic transmitters (implanted in the fish cavity) and pop-up satellite tags. The action will continue until the end of the project and to date (September 2023) a total of 3.243 spawning stock have been released into the sea in Italy and Greece.

Development of a captive breeding program for eels larvae and release into the wild

Progress 80%
The primary objective of this action is to contrast a practice that is still widespread throughout the range of the species of collection into the wild of large quantities of eels at youth stages for human consumption or breeding, however also aimed at consumption.
With this action a completely original method is developed and applied, to study by the University of Bologna for some years, which allows the reproduction in captivity of sexually mature subjects and therefore the first growth of larvae, until the moment of liberation into nature, which takes place at sea.

With this action is developed and applied the reproduction in captivity of sexually mature subjects and the first growth of the larvae, until the moment of release into the wild, which takes place at sea. Starting from 2021 for each breeding season a part of the leptocephalus obtained from artificial reproduction have been released.

The activities that are carried out annually begin from September / October with the preparation of the tanks in which the breeders will be hosted. The breeders are selected in the months of November and December with the application of the protocol for the selection of the best breeders, after which until July a series of very important phases take place including hormonal induction for sexual maturation and spontaneous reproduction. The fertilized eggs are incubated and, after hatching, the leptocephalus are fed for a first growth until they are released into the sea. During the project and until March 2023, 2.000.000 leptocephalus were released into the sea.

Realization of eels passages

Progress 35%
The passages to allow free up-stream migration, specific to young eels, designed with the A3 action will be carried out in Italy at three different sites of the Po Delta and on the Panaro River and and in Greece, along the River Nesto At the Toxotes Dam. Two ramps that will be built on the Panaro River will be built not only for young eels, but for all fish fauna, thus restoring river connectivity in the stretch of plain and hill.

The final projects for the construction of the fish passages have been completed and the bureaucratic process has been started in Italy and Greece to assign the construction of these works to specialized companies.

Implementation of a deterrence system for downstream migration of eels

Progress 45%
With this action the experimental deterrence system designed during Action A4 will be realized and installed at the Creva dam (Province of Varese) on the Tresa River. The deterrence system will be calibrated and its effectiveness in deterring eel from taking the route to the turbines of the hydropower plant will be assessed.

Action A4.2 defines the type of experimental deterrent system that will be installed in the Creva dam on the Tesa River in the Province of Varese. The experimental system designed involves the use of submerged strobe lights applied in the inner part of the grid present at the intake of the power house. The LED lights will be able to emit a fixed light or an intermittent light with a variable frequency and intensity, moreover, thanks to a system of detection of the level of the reservoir, only submerged lights will be on.

The experimental eel deterrent system is being assembled at the headquarters of the company in charge of the construction and the works for the installation of the system will begin in early 2024.

Monitoring the effectiveness of selected silver eels releases

Progress 75%
The purpose of this Action is to verify, on the one hand, the validity of the protocol for the selection of the best eel breeding animals developed with Action A2; on the other hand, the effectiveness of silver eels restocking in increasing the wild stock will be assessed.

This action moves on two fronts: first, there is the selection of the best breeders and a constant monitoring of the production of fertilized eggs and the subsequent stages of development. Second, there is the activity concerning the monitoring of the first migratory phases of the selected and marked adult specimens with the involvement of sport and professional fishermen. To facilitate the reporting of any marked eels, a brochure was produced and delivered to fishermen and fish markets. In addition, the LIFEEL Alert online reporting system (available on this website at the following link https://lifeel.eu/fai-la-tua-segnalazione/) has been activated.

During the 2021/2022 breeding season, a total of 143 breeding animals were selected and about 2.600.000 leptocephalus were obtained. The data for the 2022/2023 season are not available yet, but 156 breeders were selected.

The migration monitoring of the selected spawning stock towards the Sargasso Sea will be made with three systems: T-anchor Tag (plastic elastomer applied externally), acoustic transmitter (inserted in the celomatic cavity of the fish) and Pop-up Tag (applied externally and able to release a component towards the surface of the water traceable by GPS). Altogether to date (October 2023), in Italy and Greece, more than 1.000 specimens with T-anchor Tags have been marked, just over 100 with acoustic transmitter and 14 specimens with pop-up tags. The results are encouraging, because several specimens have been “tracked” even at important distances (more than 140 km traveled in 15 days) from the place of release, confirming the reliability of the selection protocol developed.

Monitoring the effectiveness of the passages built in Action C3 and monitoring of the deterrence system

Progress 45%
This Action monitors the ex-ante phase and  the ex-post phase the migration of eel specimens to environments where they will spend the accretion phase in the inland waters. The monitoring will verify the effectiveness of the eel passages built with the Action C3 and the effectiveness of the deterrence system installed at the Creva Dam. The latter will be useful for the implementation of the guidelines developed in Action A5.

The University of Ferrara has activated the monitoring of both young eels moving upstream and of Argentine eels moving downstream, the first data are not very encouraging and in fact follow a bit the state of health of this species in Italy. In these monitoring activities, a situation of considerable criticality has emerged with a timing of migration that is moved forward compared to the past: the glass eels expected from the end of November to the beginning of December, now arrive between the end of February and the beginning of March. Even from the continuous monitoring activity in the passage for fish of Isola Serafini on the Po River (work carried out as part of the Life Con.flu.Po project (https://www.life-conflupo.eu/index.php?lang=en), which has been active since the beginning of the project, no good news arrives. In fact, only 3 adult eels have been observed migrating downstream, while no eel specimens have been observed from the fish passage.

Also in Creva, where a deterrent system will be installed, investigations will be conducted via acoustic telemetry to evaluate its effectiveness both before and after the construction of the bollard.

The monitoring will continue until the end of the project and will include monitoring of the fish passages planned in Italy and Greece once they are completed.

Monitoring of the results of the breeding programme for juvenile stages of eel

Progress 75%
Action D3 monitors and evaluates the success of the experimental protocol of production in captivity of the eel developed and implemented with Action C2.

This action aims to monitor the results of artificial reproduction at different stages of larval development on the basis of different diets subjected to leptocephalus.

Annually about 400.000 leptocephalus are fed differently in order to find the best feeding system. Before the start of the project, the attractiveness rate towards the food administered was poor, however, thanks to the new diets tested, a survival rate of almost 50% of leptocephalus of 21-25 days of life emerged.

Monitoring of the overall impact of the project

Progress 75%
Fundamental action to evaluate the overall success of the Project and to calibrate the progress of the individual actions. It will be carried out throughout the project and will involve all partners.

This action assesses the impact of the project through the general monitoring of the project and through the monitoring of the socio-economic impact and ecosystem services. The control of the general progress of the project takes place through constant coordination between the leader and the project partners. The monitoring of socio-economic impact and the ecosystem services were conducted with three questionnaires submitted to the main stakeholders.

Information and awareness raising activities

Progress 85%
Project communication action, in this action will be implemented various initiatives and products aimed at informing and raising awareness among the population and the different categories of stakeholders about the urgency of taking action for the conservation of the eel and the activities of the project itself.

The initiatives and products aimed at informing and raising awareness among the population and the various categories of stakeholders have been carried out on several fronts. The website is an important point of reference for all those who want to know the project and it is connected to a Facebook and Instagram page thanks to which it is possible to disseminate effectively and quickly all the news of the Project. In addition, there is also a YouTube channel on which videos of some of the project activities are uploaded.

The awareness and communication plan also includes the creation of: newsletters, press releases, information panels, brochures, t-shirts and gadgets.

Numerous dissemination events have been carried out in Italy and Greece, on these occasions they have been involved, in addition to stakeholders, even ordinary citizens. The Project has also been presented several times in important television and radio programs.

Finally, raising awareness among young people is also an important aspect of this action, so far about 2.000 students have been involved in Italy and Greece.

Technical dissemination and networking

Progress 85%
Information, technical and scientific exchange and cooperation with other research groups dealing with similar activities in other parts of the European Union.

The action includes among the activities the technical-scientific dissemination thanks to which 11 scientific publications on the activities carried out within the project and a technical article have been realized. In addition, the working group has participated in 12 events where the results obtained have been presented.

Networking with other projects is planned too and LIFEEL has already come into contact with 9 different projects and has started networking actions with 6 projects.

Project management and After LIFE activities

Progress 75%
Management and general coordination of the project ensured through a defined management structure that involves the whole partnership and is favored by the presence of a single Project Manager. In addition, the After LIFE plan will be drawn up and implemented when the project is completed, in order to give continuity to the eel conservation measures undertaken during the Project.