Lonely Conger eel released so he can find love

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A Scottish aquarium has released one of its resident Conger eels back into the North Sea to give it the chance to breed.

The eel, named 'Rip', has been resident at the Macduff Marine Aquarium in Aberdeenshire since 2004, but staff had noticed that he had become increasingly restless in recent weeks – a sign that he was ready for the 2,000 mile, one way journey to his species' Atlantic breeding grounds.

Moving a 1.8m/6' amorous anguilliforme is not a straightforward operation however, and instead of a net, the aquarium's staff had to use a combination of divers, a large bag and a small crane to lift Rip out of the tank so the lustful eel could be swung gently into the cool waters of the North Sea, ready to begin his long final journey.

His release was watched by a large crowd, and after a few anxious minutes while Rip stubbornly remained inside the bag he was eventually coaxed out and away to the sound of cheers from the fish loving onlookers.

It is thought European conger eels (Conger conger) spawn 3000 metres down in the deep waters off the Azores with females laying anything from 3-8 million eggs before both males and females die as a result of this epic breeding effort. The newly hatched young are flattened and transparent and spend up to two years drifting on the ocean's currents feeding on plankton, before those that survive this vulnerable phase take up residence along the coast where they gain their more familiar grey colouration.

Congers live from between 5 and 15 years, growing in some case to 3m/10' in length and weighing in excess of 100kg/220lb.

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