Critically endangered eels released into the wild

Staff and students from Bridgwater College’s Fisheries department have been working in partnership with Bristol Water and Avon Wildlife Trust on a project with primary school children from four Bristol schools to release the critically endangered common eel back into the wild.

The ‘Spawn to be Wild’ project, which is now in its second year, aims to bring baby eels that have travelled more than 4,000 miles from the Sargasso Sea near the Bahamas into the classroom to be cared for before being released back into the wild at Blagdon Lake.

Children releasing the eels back into Blagdon Lake.

The eels were delivered to the College by Bristol Water just days after being caught in the River Parrett. They were placed in the College’s specialised tanks to begin the critical first feeding phase, which gets the eels used to taking food. Once this process was complete, the College set up tanks in each of the four schools and offered technical support to ensure the eels were being cared for properly to ensure their survival in the wild.

The eels were released by the primary school children into Blagdon Lake at the end of May, where they will live and thrive, before making their return trip to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

Group learning about the eels with Avon Wildlife Trust before their release.

The involvement in the project, which forms part of Bristol Water's National Environment Programme to open up migration pathways for eels by creating a network of connecting corridors, habitats and migration routes across our landscape, forms just a small part of a longer term strategy of the College to be part of the eels’ recovery.  

Sophie Edwards, Environmental Officer at Bristol Water said,

“Spawn to be Wild is an innovative measure to educate children and restock the eel population at Blagdon Lake. It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm from the children when releasing the eels and enjoying their visit to this important designated wildlife site.”

Iain Turner, Programme Manager for Fisheries Management at Bridgwater College added,

“The eel is critically endangered and with the River Parrett right on our doorstep, and the specific skills and resources the College has available, we are best placed to deliver programmes such as these. By involving schools in such projects, it increases awareness of species, such as eels, which otherwise they might not ever know about.”