Connecting eels to landscapes: Reflections on the Wilder Wedmore eel release project and Nature Festival

Over the weekend Dr. Ali Hutchinson attended the Wilder Wedmore Nature Festival organised by Green Wedmore. The three-day festival hosted a range of guest talks on local wildlife and conservation initiatives, as well as workshops on engaging with and conserving wildlife. As the European eel is never far from the attention of the Beastly Business team, presentations from Andrew Kerr (Sustainable Eel Group) and The Wilder Wedmore Eel Release Project (TWWERP) were top of the list. 

In the lead up to the event, Ali and other TWWERP community volunteers carried out an eDNA survey to verify the presence of the eel along drainage ditches and watercourses around the River Axe. The results were showcased during the festival’s opening event, a key takeaway being the absence of eel DNA east of the River Axe, and very little to be found in areas of Wedmore.

Environmental DNA testing, photo courtesy of Vanessa Becker-Hughes

As part of the community eel release project a number of local schools in the area will be caring for elvers over the coming weeks, before releasing them upstream in the summer. During the festival, around 200 elvers were released into three locations around Wedmore. These elvers will have been caught as glass eels during their upstream migration in early March. In addition to the young elvers, it was also fantastic to see wild adult eels inhabiting the local waterways. Although – proving that the eel is always a meal – the sudden influx of juvenile eels may provide a tasty treat for the adults. See our short clips below of the elvers and eels. We’re looking forward to hearing how the project continues and hoping the new population of elvers fares well in their new home.