The South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT) in partnership with Natural Resources Wales and the Sustainable Eel Group, have worked with local schools and colleges to deliver the ‘Eels in the Classroom’ project for a number of years.
The program aims to highlight the amazing life-cycle of the eels. The eels life starts in the Sargasso Sea (Caribbean) where the adults breed, with each female producing millions of eggs. The eggs then drift in the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic Ocean, reaching our shores after 2-3years at sea during which time the eggs have hatched and the planktonic larvae developed into tiny glass eels. These glass eels are carried by the tidal cycles into our estuaries at which point they become elvers and start to actively swim upstream. Once in freshwater, the elvers grow into adult eels, in some cases for several decades, before heading back down river, out to sea and all the way back across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, the future of European eel populations has been in doubt because their populations plummeted in the 1990s and have not recovered since.
Each year, the Trust has supplied aquariums and associated equipment to a number of schools, colleges and education centers. Glass eels were then sourced from netsmen in the River Severn estuary near Gloucester each spring and 40-50 individual eels provided to each school for the students to nurture and care for, over a period of several weeks before releasing them, with the consent of Natural Resources Wales, into their local river.
Feedback from the children and staff has been very positive with the pupils demonstrating their understanding of life-cycles, food-webs and environmental factors that impacts on fish populations.