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The Great Eel Release on TV’s Countryfile

September 24th, 2013

As if it wasn’t exciting enough to have a tank of slippery elvers in your classroom for over a term, Friday saw Prep IV, Year 6, set off for Llangorse in Powys to help Severn and Wye Smokery release 20,000 glass eels into the lake as part of an ambitious ten year conservation programme.

But the excitement didn’t stop there; the whole day was filmed by BBC1’s Countryfile with presenter Julia Bradbury and just before filming wrapped at the end of the day, there was a surprise guest appearance from John Craven.

The driving force behind the conservation project is Richard Cook, one of a relatively small number of fishermen left on the River Severn and the founder of Severn and Wye Smokery. Concerned over the reducing numbers of glass eels arriving in the River Severn and River Wye he decided to take action to reverse this trend.

Once he had all the necessary licences and government approvals, he enlisted the help of The Grange, Monmouth Preparatory School, as the pilot school before rolling it out to around 50 other schools in the area.

Known locally as elvers, glass eels were caught in the tidal regions of the Severn and Wye back in April / May of this year and were duly delivered to The Grange where they were reared in tanks kept in their classrooms. The boys were fascinated by the 6000 km journey the elvers had made from the Sargasso Sea in the warm waters around the Bahamas. Unable to swim and surviving on their yolk sacks, they literally surfed their way across the ocean on the North Atlantic Drift until they reached the fresh waters of the Severn and Wye which kick-started their appetites and encouraged them to eat. The boys initially fed the glass eels on cod roe then special fish meal feed.  Once the glass eels were feeding and growing, they could then be released back into the wild where their chances of survival are now significantly increased.

The elvers released on Friday into Llangorse Lake will spend the next 10 to 12 years there before they use a small tributary to start their long journey back to the Sargasso Sea.

Mrs Elaine Thomas, Head of the Grange, said,

“We are keen to teach our boys the importance of protecting the environment and being part of this exciting conservation and sustainability project has given our pupils invaluable first-hand experience of what is involved.   We had a marvellous day filming and releasing the elvers from boats on the lake. We also enjoyed learning about all the delicious ways eels can be cooked and prepared.  Richard and Shirley Cook have inspired us and we hope to continue to be a part of this ground-breaking project in the years to come.”

Any schools interested in taking part in the project in the future are asked to contact Richard Cook at Severn and Wye Smokery on 01452 760190 or email info@severnandwye.co.uk

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