Wednesday, June 3, 2020

New Port Terminal Construction Reveals a Surprising Hidden Population

Endangered Species Rescued Prior to Commencement of Work
Shipping News Feature

SWEDEN – When work commenced on the new Arendal terminal at the Port of Gothenburg in Autumn 2018, the largest development project at the port for over 40 years, probably very little thought was initially given to wildlife. However as with other similar projects, the construction of the port at London Gateway springs to mind, an ecological study is always an essential component in these matters.

The creation of the future 220,000 m2 terminal included filling in a small cove with rock and dredge spoil to construct the foundations, but first the lagoon had to be cleared of wildlife. As with so many European ports the area had, unbeknown to the authorities, become a home for a large population of 150 European eels, causing Joakim Grenmarker, project manager for the new Arendal port terminal, to comment:

“We hadn’t expected to find any eels at all and discovering 150 so close to where we are working was a surprise. Particularly in the light of the fact that construction of the terminal has been in progress for quite a while. Having said that, the eels don’t seem to have been too bothered by what has been going on around them.”

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a creature that has fascinated both anglers and scientists for generations. For such a well-known species its breeding habits, which occur in the Sargasso Sea, a huge gyre of Sargassum seaweed, are almost completely unknown. After spawning the parents vanish whilst the thousands of offspring float on the Atlantic currents, possibly for years, before heading for their parents’ home territory and making the transition from salt water to fresh.

Pollution, overfishing and probably the effect of chemicals known as PCBs have decimated the eel population to a point where the numbers stand at around 5% of what they were 70 years ago. This puts the species firmly on the ‘Red List’ of endangered creatures and in Gothenburg the creatures had to be removed and relocated before construction went ahead, Apart from the eels, the fish traps took round goby and a few plaice, cod, and viparious eelpout.

As with all its major port expansion projects, the Port of Gothenburg says it ensured compensation measures are in place for the flora and fauna that are affected. In recent years, Gothenburg Port Authority has created lobster reefs, salamander hibernation areas, habitats for woodpeckers and the smooth snake, and a wetland for long-legged birds. This has taken place in line with the growth and development of the port.

As work on the new Arendal terminal continues, 1.7 hectares of new eelgrass have been planted to offset the eelgrass that will disappear as a result of construction. Joakim Grenmarker concluded:

“It is vitally important for us that as we expand we remain mindful of the potential consequences and that we do everything in our power to mitigate any impact our actions may have on plant and animal life.”

Photo: No, not the Loch Ness monster - Eels being fished out of the embanked lagoon in the Port of Gothenburg with (inset) a European Eel. Original image courtesy Gothenburg Port Authority.