Is proximity to the North Atlantic Drift and the Continental Shelf Current sustaining freshwater European eel populations in western Scotland?


Colin E. Adams, Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment, University of Glasgow, Rowardennan, Glasgow G63 0AW, Scotland. E-mail:


1. We report on freshwater resident eel numbers in western Scotland based on two time series of data, independent of each other, spanning 28 years and that do not rely upon fisheries information.

2. Data from eel captures on trash screens of a pumping station (1982–2003) on Loch Lomond and electrofishing data from a stream in Lochaber, the Allt Coire nan Con (1989–2010), are compared with similar time series eel population data from elsewhere in the British Isles and more widely in Europe.

3. Over the period of the study, indices of eel numbers from across Europe declined by between 72 and 95%; in stark contrast, neither time series from western Scotland showed evidence for decline between 1982 and 2010.

4. We provisionally conclude that freshwater populations in western Scotland are being maintained by regional processes directly related to the proximity of the leading edge of the North Atlantic Drift and the Continental Shelf Current and the direction of prevailing winds.