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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 18 June 2007

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A PLAN to stem the catastrophic decline of the eel in Southport waters has been agreed by EU Ministers meeting in Brussels this week.

While improved water quality has in many cases led to fish being found in greater numbers than at any time in the since the 19th century, the once common eel is disappearing.  Eels can be found in almost all British waters, including canals, rivers, ponds, meres and reservoirs, but in recent years their population has crashed. Since the 1980's the number of young eels has declined dramatically to in some cases just 1% of their former numbers.

But this week EU Ministers agreed an action plan to help reverse the decline and local Liberal Democrat Environment spokesman Chris Davies has welcomed the new measures.  He said:- "The fall in eel numbers is catastrophic. There is no certainty these measures will be sufficient but if no action is taken eels will become extinct in most of our rivers and waterways."

Eels swim from Britain to the Sargasso Sea where they breed. Tiny elvers are then carried on the currents to Britain, where they swim up estuaries to grow and mature in lakes and ponds. Eventually the oldest eels will migrate back downstream where they will spawn once and then die. 

The reasons for the dramatic decline are unclear. Overfishing may be the cause but some scientists believe that a slowing of the Gulf Stream due to climate change may be leaving the tiny elvers unable to survive the 5,000 mile journey from the Sargasso Sea.  The Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be responsible for drawing up an eel management plan to protect eels in local rivers and this will be in force by July next year at the latest. This will aim to ensure that at least 40% of adult eels can return to the sea to breed.

Euro-MP Chris Davies says it is essential to have an EU wide plan of action to protect the survival of eels in local waterways.  "The vast distances covered by eels during their migration to spawn mean that conservation measures must be planned on an international basis.  Many people think of eels as slimy creatures or even as a strange Southern delicacy. But for centuries they have travelled halfway across the world to live in our local waters."

The law will also ensure that a proportion of eels caught must be reserved for restocking schemes. By 2013 almost 2/3rds of catches will be set aside to repopulate rivers. 

Eels are mainly nocturnal spending much of the day resting in dark holes under tree roots and bridges. They often colonise foreign objects on the bed of the river or canal such as shopping trolleys.  Eels can also be found in lakes and meres isolated from flowing water. In exceptional cases they have been known to cross the land in search of a new home.


YOUNG people are no longer relying on the bank of Mum and Dad, according to new research from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).  Since the introduction of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) across England in 2004 the financial pressure on parents has lessened, with 55% of young people receiving EMA saying they are much more financially independent than before they received the allowance.

Previous research conducted in December 2005 showed parents with children between 16 to 19 spent an average of £1,808 a year, or £34 a week, on each child in this age group - and this has significantly reduced to just £11.50 a week for those with teens receiving EMA.  With EMA, young people can earn up to £30 a week providing their household income is up to £30,810 a year. In addition, teenagers staying in full time education benefit the family as they become entitled to other benefits, such as Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit worth up to £64 a week.

Relationships between parent and teen have also improved, with 28% of parents agreeing that fewer money arguments have occurred since their teenager started receiving the allowance.  34% parents also cited improvements with their teenagers' money management skills and a similar number (33%) said they were now more responsible since getting the allowance.

As the weekly payments depend on the young person being able to demonstrate dedication to their learning programme, a better attitude towards learning was also reported, so the LSC is urging more young people to apply now for EMA in time for the September term.  EMA is available for a large variety of vocational and academic learning programmes and retakes, including LSC funded Entry to Employment (e2e) and Programme led Apprenticeships whether at college, school 6th form centres and some work based learning providers.

Psychologist Donna Dawson said;- "By easing money worries, EMA makes a substantial contribution to helping build healthy relationships between parents and their children - not only by reducing the burden on parents, but by giving young people the financial independence and the increased responsibility that they crave."

Trevor Fellowes, Director of Learner Support at the Learning and Skills Council said:- "EMA has not only meant that more young people can afford to stay on in learning, it also makes them more financially independent and helps young people to develop better money management skills.  With the new school year starting in September, it is vital that all eligible young people who aren't already receiving EMA apply now to ensure that they don't miss out."

Phil Hope, Skills Minister said:- "EMA has been a huge success story. It has given a massive boost to our drive to increase post-16 participation to improve this country's competitiveness. By paying money directly into young people's own bank accounts it has helped remove financial barriers holding them back from staying on in learning and training. By covering everyday costs it has meant hundreds of thousands of young people have been able to resist pressures to drop out into low-paid, dead-end work. Staying on and getting qualifications employers need is becoming increasingly important as fewer and fewer jobs in future will be open to people with low skills."

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