Mitten Crabs, Eels and Otters

I was walking with my missus over the footbridge at Brownshill Staunch yesterday when a man drove his van up to the sluices on the western side. A real 'salt of the earth' type he was too ! We had a very enjoyable chat with him and it turned out that he was one of the few ( perhaps 3 ? - his estimate ! ) remaining eel catchers in the country. If you haven't noticed, there's an young eel ( 'elvers' ) monitoring station to the west of the sluice gates - it looks like lengths of upside-down blue bristle brush or astoturf, leading to a vertical pipe with a manhole cover over it. It's behind a little gated ( but unlocked ) area. There's no provision at Brownhill Staunch for eels to get upstream of the sluices; he said that they generally used to be able to up through gaps in old wooden gates, but now that most have been replaced with steel the number of eels that are managing to get upstream has fallen dramatically over the last 10 or so years. He's discussed/advised the Environment Agency on the provision of an eel staircase in the past, but this hasn't resulted in any provision at Brownshill Staunch. At least not yet.. He told us he visits his traps every fortnight ( not anything like daily ) and had 7 on the Ouse in that area, but that he also traps on other rivers over a wide area. He let us have a look at his catch, which was mostly eels but also included about 5 Japanese Mitten crabs ( an invasive species ). There are some photos in the 'photos' section, but they aren't high quality as I was poking my camera down into his mesh bag. The catch he sells goes to Oriental markets - they can have their Mitten crabs back ! He also catches American crayfish in that stretch of river. When asked if he had seen otters in that area he was quite sure he had on many occasions, which sounds encouraging. He was using anti-otter guards on his nets to avoid catching them, as they will often drown if they do get into traps. He said the fine for drowning an otter in a trap is £1,000/otter, though this doesn't seem to match up with other references I've seen on the Web, which are higher. Anway, it was an interesting supplement to a pleasant walk.