European eel: Schools in bid to save endangered fish

Girl looking at baby eel in cup
Image caption Staff say the children are learning a sense of responsibility while caring for the eels

Hundreds of elvers are being released into lakes as part of a plan to save the critically endangered European eel.

Children from Bristol and Somerset have been rearing them in classrooms for an award-winning conservation project.

Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90%.

The scheme, run by Bristol Water, Bristol Avon Rivers Trust and Avon Wildlife Trust (AWT), has seen 5,000 eels protected since 2014.

Image copyright Erling Svensen / WWF
Image caption European eels are under threat for a number of reasons, including overfishing and pollution

"For us the project's all about getting kids inspired and connected to nature," said Lucy Hellier, from AWT.

"Eels are such a wonderful species because they're such a mysterious and elusive animal that we don't know much about, and they're a species that we can help protect."

Pupils at Birdwell Primary School in Long Ashton, near Bristol, have nurtured 70 elvers and set them free in nearby Blagdon Lake.

It is hoped they will thrive there for around five years before migrating to the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic to spawn before returning to Europe.

Image caption Children have been releasing the elvers they have raised into a lake

If they survive in their new home, the eels could reach one metre in length and live to around 85 years old.

Kirsty Dunford, from Bristol Water, said: "The children get the sense of responsibility from looking after the eels in the classroom and also the sense of pride when they come out to release the eels into the lake, knowing that they're helping a critically endangered species."

Bristol Water has also installed special eel passes at Blagdon Lake to further protect the elvers as they make their way upstream.

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