Spawn to be wild... Kids help to save our eels

Thousands of children are seeking to raise public awareness of our critically endangered eels – by getting involved in a rearing project to increase their numbers in UK rivers.

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The Spawn To Be Wild project, run by the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust and Avon Wildlife Trust, is rolling out to 11 schools this spring and involves the growing of eels in school classrooms. 

The project is funded by Bristol Water, A Forgotten Landscape and the Avon Frome Partnership.

“We are excited to announce the project will be running again this year, with even more schools signed up,” said Spawn to be Wild organiser Harriet Alvis.

“How the project works is this – each school will receive 50 elvers (baby eels) and the students will rear them for four to five weeks before they are released into nearby rivers. During this time pupils will learn about the life cycle of the eel, threats to their survival and what we can do to protect them. The learning doesn’t just take place in the classroom. Part of the project involves net dipping on local rivers. 

“This teaches the children about all the life forms in our rivers, from small invertebrates to larger fish. It’s great to get them interacting more with the freshwater environment and learning how rivers connect to the seas.

“Primary and secondary school pupils as well as our first special needs school are all taking part. The project starts in April and the eels will be released in May.”

Other Rivers Trusts around the country are rolling out similar schemes under different names, with all are featuring eels. 

“It’s great news that this focus is being put on the eel, a fish that has suffered a catastrophic decline of 97 per cent since the 1970s and is a largely unknown, and critically endangered species,” Harriet said.

Simon Nicoll, one of the teachers involved in the scheme, said: “The children loved having the elvers. They were so excited and haven’t stopped speaking about releasing them into the river.”