Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Andrew Kerr speaks at the first annual Somerset Eel Conference

The 2024 Somerset Eel Conference commences tomorrow at the Redbrick Building in Glastonbury, bringing together scientists, conservationists, government policymakers, and other key stakeholders in the European eel’s future. It is the largest of a series of talks and conservation skills workshops held by the Somerset Eel Recovery Project to increase exposure to emerging research and re-engage communities with the prescient issues in water management.

Andrew Kerr, founder of the Sustainable Eel Group, will open the conference with an address that contextualises the model developed by the community-led group within an international conservation landscape. His speech will identify the integration of social, economic, and environmental needs as an essential attribute of sustainable eel conservation, and identify small, but impactful solutions as the most effective conduits for change in an increasingly polarised geopolitical climate.

Dr. Willem Dekker, an expert in the biology of the European eel, will deliver a keynote address on the evolution of conservation policies in Europe. His presentation will explore the historical challenges and successes in developing effective water resource strategies and ‘Eel Management Plans’. Other notable agenda items include a research presentation on eel migration in the Azores, by the Environment Agency’s Andy Don; a new study detailing the relative impact of wetland destruction on migratory fish, from Dr. Mark Everard; and Julia Manning’s artistic exploration of disruption and decline.

An important feature of the conference is the report on initiatives pioneered by the Somerset Eel Recovery Project, including eel tracking efforts using eDNA, installing traditional straw rope ‘eel passes’, and the ‘Eels in the Classroom’ programme. This will demonstrate the capacity for citizen scientists with limited resources to make valuable contributions to international eel conservation efforts, as well as education and wider research.