South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

We’re eel-y excited to announce that Thames Rivers Trust in partnership with the South East Rivers Trust, Action for the River Kennet, and Thames21, have been successful in gaining funding to aid the long-term survival of the European eel.

Eels have a spectacular and complex life cycle! European eels spend most of their lives living in Europe’s rivers, including here in the UK. When they are ready to spawn they migrate over 6000 km across the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea.

Once hatched, the larvae make the incredible journey back across the ocean to our rivers, and develop into young eels, also known as elvers, before swimming upstream. Watch this amazing video from ZSL to see the mind-blowing journey each European eel makes over its lifetime.

The rivers in the Thames catchment have an immense natural and cultural heritage, and eels form a big part of that. The eel was once common, yet is now critically endangered. One of the factors heavily impacting an eel’s ability to complete its life cycle is in-river barriers.

Our new partnership is working closely with the Zoological Society of London and Thames Estuary Partnership, and will be developing and trialling a nationally recognised and standardised methodology for citizen science eel barrier surveying. This will enable trained volunteers to help assess and map robust data of where there are barriers to eel migration, which will help strategic prioritisation for future eel projects.

The project will also create a variety of ways for the public to get involved including reaching out to local communities and schools on the Rivers Mole, Ravensbourne, Brent, middle and lower Kennet and Pang, with an innovative eel education and engagement programme of events and workshops. Wherever possible the project will be getting people outdoors and connecting with nature, in or by their local rivers (where eels spend the majority of their lives).

The South East Rivers Trust will be taking the lead in the Mole catchment, where we’ll be organising a series of guided walks, delivering talks to local interest groups, and giving school assemblies and classes, as well as coordinating the volunteer monitoring of elver migration and barrier surveying.

Thank you to our funders

This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Have any Question or Comment?

3 comments on “Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

Mike Constable

I believe human hormone chemicals have been causing problems for fish in the river Mole (interfering with their breeding – intersex problems) – is there any information on this for European eels?

Jess Mead

Hi Mike, I know that hormones entering our rivers through sewage effluent is certainly a problem for most fish species but I am not sure how it would effect European Eels as their sex is not determined at birth but is depends on the density of eels in that area: less eels present = more of them becoming female at sexual maturity. I also wasn’t aware of any Mole specific data or research but if you have seen some please do send it over to and I will ensure it is passed onto our Mole Catchment Officer.


Is it still possible to spot eels in the Thames? Any recommended places?

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