Spawn to be Wild

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Eel tank in schoolEel tank in a school

Spawn to be Wild is an award-winning schools project, funded by Bristol Water. Children in primary schools have the opportunity to rear young eels (elvers) in their classrooms, with a whole programme of curriculum-linked learning activities all based around this fascinating animal.

This project started in 2014 and is now in its fourth successful year. 

Children from five schools across Avon carefully nurture the elvers over a five week period before releasing them into an ideal eel river or lake, where they will live until they return to sea to spawn.

Whilst their elvers grow, the children learn about the eels' fascinating lives, the challenges they have to overcome to make it up our rivers and what they, and all their classmates, can do to help save the eel.

This project is a collaboration between Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Water, the Sustainable Eel Group and Bridgwater & Taunton College.

Did you know...?

  • The European eel is a catadromous species, breeding in the sea and migrating to freshwater to grow before returning to the sea to spawn
  • It is thought that all European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea which is near Bermuda
  • The larvae, which look like curled leaves and are known as 'leptocephalli', drift in the plankton for up to three years, and are carried by the Atlantic currents towards our coastline
  • Young eels are known as glass eels because they are transparent. They become darker in colour and start to migrate up freshwater streams in large numbers. They are known as elvers at this time
  • The eels then spend up to 20 years growing in freshwater. During this stage they are known as yellow eels
  • Towards the end of this time, they become sexually mature. They turn a silvery colour and migrate back towards the sea on dark, moonless and stormy nights. During this time they are known as silver eels
  • Upon returning to the sea, the European eel lives in mud, crevices, and under stones but no one has ever seen or recorded how these fish reproduce or where exactly
  • Eels can live up to a whopping 85 years. Let's hope the elvers that are in our schools reach that grand old age!