The European Eel has long been a part of local culture but despite this, previously little was understood about its lifecycle. Now, according to the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, the illegal trade of the European Eel is one of the biggest wildlife crimes in the world. In this article Matthew Hatchwell explores the history of the European Eel, its ecology, the threats that it faces and what can be done to ensure its long-term survival.
This story starts at a very particular moment: at two o’clock in the morning on Easter Sunday in 2019, when a colleague, Bob, and I stood rapt as we watched scores of translucent elvers arriving on a high spring tide. They were trying to cover the final metres of their marathon, 6,000km journey from the Sargasso Sea to the freshwater tributaries of the Thames Estuary.