A Greenpeace report released today points to chemical contamination as a factor in decline of European eel population:
The report, "Slipping Away: the presence of perfluorinated chemicals in eels (Anguilla anguilla) from 11 European countries", including the UK, reveals that European eels, once common but now in rapid decline, are widely contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), a source of rising concern due to their toxicity and widespread distribution in the environment. The eels tested in the UK were from the river Thames. PFCs are used to make stain-repellent coatings in carpets, textiles and paints, non- stick coatings on saucepans and the insides of fast food and microwave popcorn wrappings. Brand-name products made using PFCs include Gore-Tex outdoor wear, Stainmaster stain-proof carpet treatments and Teflon easy-to-clean cookware. PFCs are also widely used in industrial processes and in certain fire fighting foams. They have been linked to liver damage and reproductive problems in fish and certain mammals.
It's not just bad news for the eels - a 2005 study "found PFCs in umbilical cord blood from newborn babies, confirming ability to cross the placenta and expose the developing child in the womb".
A link between this contamination and the daily horror show of customers queuing outside the capital's pie, mash and eel shops has yet to be revealed.