NIEUWENDIJK, Netherlands:  On an autumn morning on a small Dutch canal, fisherman Aart van der Waal pulls up a fish trap stuffed with squirming eels - not for the pot, but as part of a bold initiative to save the critically endangered species.

Weighed and recorded, the serpentine swimmers are then carried several hundred metres (yards) across a dike in a plastic bucket, before being released back into the water on the other side with an unceremonious splash.

Once in the Haringvliet, a North Sea estuary some 15 kilometres (nine miles) downstream, the rescued eels will complete their final freshwater swim, before tackling an arduous 7,000-kilometre journey to spawning grounds in the central Atlantic Ocean.

Twice a week, Van der Waal sets out on his flat-bottomed boat to pull up the traps as part of an ambitious plan to help save Europe’s decimated eel population, an indicator species for the health of the continent’s estuaries and seas.–AFP