Since September 2019 Wild Learning Officer Vicky Bolton has been delivering workshops to students at Alde Valley Academy in Leiston, to share the amazing story of the European eel. Students have been learning about the natural, social history and the current status of this critically endangered species and the threats it faces - the greatest threat being us. Alterations to river systems by introducing barriers such as locks and weirs prevent the eel making their astonishing migration from the Sargasso Sea to our shores and the return journey when they travel back to breed.
Where have all the eels gone?
The students had the opportunity to meet Jez Wood, Conservation Officer and County Eel Monitor from the Environment Agency who shared his experiences working to save eel in our region and showed the students prototypes of the eel passes used to combat migration barriers, as well as new eel counters which are being used to give a clearer picture on eel populations in East Anglia.
Jellied eel used to be a delight in the past but has now fallen out of favour in our culture, but eel isn’t off the menu for everyone. In Asia and Russia eel is a delicacy and unfortunately for the European eel they are the most sort after. It is illegal to ship eels out of the EU which has created a black market with 1kg of elvers being sold for £1000, creating a trade worth over 3 billion pounds a year, making the European eel the most trafficked animal in the world.
For this project, students at Alde Valley Academy have visited Sizewell Belts nature reserve to hear the story of the eel from local Warden Dayne West and help maintain the reserve by completing some practical conservation work with Assistant Warden Charlie McMurray.
As part of this project students have been asked to spread the message of the eel’s plight by creating a piece that represents their answer to the question “Where have the eels gone?”. Students produced art pieces and a short stop motion documentary to highlight the struggles of this amazing species and share with others ways in which we can help to change its fate.
The students' work was put on display at Aldeburgh Library for others to enjoy for a short period.