ONCE it was one of the most polluted rivers in South Yorkshire and very much down at eel.
But now the River Dearne is so clean it was safe to release 50,000 eels into the water at the RSPB Old Moor in the Dearne Valley.
Eels used to be in the Dearne in huge numbers.
But heavy industrial pollution saw numbers dip by 95 per cent and they became an endangered species.
Now the river has been cleaned up and The Don Rivers' Trust was given 92,000 by DEFRA to support the eel re-introductions.
The trust teamed up with the RSPB to identify suitable lakes and ponds.
The Dearne washlands of Old Moor, Bolton Ings and Edderthorpe Flash were found to be the ideal place for eels to flourish.
A number of eel-passes were installed to allow the creatures to make their way up the river and past the weirs to breed.
RSPB project manager Pete Wall said: "The eels are an important part of the food chain and some will undoubtedly be eaten by birds and other wildlife such as otters.
"They may even encourage the extremely rare bittern which visits Old Moor in the winter to stay and breed in the spring."
He added: "The 50,000 glass eels can settle in and hide amongst the reed beds."
When the eels are ready to breed, in about 10 to 15 years, they will make their way into the Dearne and then begin the long migration back to the ocean and their spawning grounds in the Sargasso sea, south of Bermuda.
Pete said: "Barnsley and the Dearne Valley are gaining a growing reputation for great wildlife."
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