The European Eel has an extraordinary life cycle and here on the banks of the Severn the annual migration heralding spring continues to astound fishermen, naturalists and all who seek a close relationship with the natural world.
In a typical year the 300 licensed elver fishermen of the Bristol Channel mostly the Severn, Parrett and Wye head out to their favoured spots at night to fish using the regulated ‘dip net’. The fishing only works when natural conditions combine to enable an elver run. Full moon and warm fresh water are the key natural stimulants.
In recent times some 10 to 15 million glass eels have been sent annually to restock the rivers of Europe where the migration is failing. Whilst there is no government led programme for the UK, it has been practised on a large scale since 1908 when the Germans first came to buy eels and they built an elver station on the banks of the Severn at Epney.
BREXIT and politics has led to the closing of this market to these fishermen so SEG, the leading NGO working for eel sustainability and recovery, has stepped in to organise a volunteer rewilding programme.
Earlier in April this started on the Somerset levels and led to a BBC Countryfile story last Sunday, which can be viewed here. Now attention shifts to the Severn and once again volunteer fishermen are heading out to catch and release over a million eels above the major migration barriers.
This will be celebrated at a small event on Wednesday 28th April at 1200. The glass eels caught on Tuesday night and morning will be collectively released at Mythe Bridge on the west bank of the Severn above Tewkesbury.
So far some 750,000 glass eels have been assisted with their migration on the Somerset levels and Severn we are hoping the fish caught on Tuesday will break through to the initial magic million and that the rewilding programme continues to gather momentum.
Kitty Macfarlane the singer songwriter will celebrate the release with her song “Glass Eels”, which can be viewed here