Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

The Thames Catchment Community Eels Project is a partnership, led by Thames Rivers Trust, with Action for the River Kennet, the South East Rivers Trust and Thames21.  We are working together to aid the long-term survival of the European eel.  Through new citizen science monitoring, we will be collecting and analysing robust data, which can then be used to make strategic decisions for future eel recovery projects.

Our aim is to raise the profile of this Critically Endangered fish through education and engagement with local schools and communities. An initial awareness, research and education project ended in early 2022.

  • Barriers to eel migration recorded


  • Children's eel sessions


  • Community walks and talks


  • Hours of volunteer surveying


Inspiring children

‘The children skipped out of school saying – “we loved learning about eels”. They joined in with all the actions, engaged well & really enjoyed it’

We enjoyed delivering 20 sessions to primary schools, and scout and guide groups, telling them all about their local river and the incredible journey the European eel makes to reach the River Mole.

These sessions were fun, curriculum-linked and free to schools, funded by government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

Some amazing artwork was produced by schools that have participated in the project, all stored in our Eely Gallery.

Explore the Eely Gallery

As well as education sessions, we developed informative and inspiring educational resources for anyone to use.

Explore education resources

Inspiring pupils about eels © South East Rivers Trust


Obstacles in rivers are major factors contributing to the dramatic decline of the European eel but there are huge gaps in our knowledge of where they are and how they impact eel migration.

We trained a fantastic team of volunteers to become ObstacEELS surveyors who mapped obstacles to eel migration across the Mole Catchment.

In total, the 23 citizen scientists trained by SERT assessed 107km of river and recorded 119 barriers – 66 of these were previously undocumented, which demonstrates the huge importance of this work.

The data they collected has enabled us to put together a strategic approach to future eel projects along the Mole, which will improve the river for this critically endangered species.

You can read more about it and see a map of all the barriers recorded under the ‘issues’ tab on the Mole Catchment Partnership page.

Citizen Scientists completing an ObstacEELS survey © Thames Rivers Trust

Working with communities

We introduced local communities to the European eel and its incredible life cycle through a series of guided walks and talks on the River Mole

We explained the threats that the European eel faces and what’s being done to help it – a great opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of these fascinating creatures.

River Mole community walk © South East Rivers Trust

Monitoring eel migration

All European eels hatch from tiny spherical eggs in the Sargasso Sea and migrate into European rivers such as the Thames over a 1-2 year period.

We worked with some fantastic local volunteers to monitor the migration of young eels (elvers) on the River Ember, a side branch of the River Mole.

Recruitment of young eels has fallen significantly over the last 40 years so this monitoring is incredibly important to help them survive and thrive. The data collected at this site feeds into a project spanning the Thames, coordinated by the Zoological Society of London. It provides essential information which helps prioritise and plan work across London and beyond to help these endangered creatures.

Our volunteers conducted 47 surveys over the 2021 migration season counting over 2000 eels.

Measuring elvers © South East Rivers Trust

Check out our new online eel game!

Why not have a go at our new online eel game?

Play the game here

You can find more information about the wider project on the Thames Rivers Trust website.

Explore more eels

Thanks to our supporters

Green Recovery Challenge Fund
Action for the River Kennet
Thames Estuary Partnership
Thames Rivers Trust