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BRISTOL AVON RIVERS TRUST
"A Clear Future for our River"

Monthly Archives: May 2019

Spawn to be Wild – the big releases!

11 primary schools across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and Somerset have been out in local rivers releasing 550 young European eels which they have been studying as part of our Spawn to be Wild project. Each primary school looked after approximately 50 elvers (young eels) for 4 weeks, during which time they learnt all about eel life cycles, the river habitat and threats to eel survival.

The eels were bought from UK Glass Eels after being caught by elver fisherman on the River Severn, after which the eels took a quick detour in each primary school.

The eels spend between 10-70 years in the headwaters of rivers, in small tributaries, ditches and streams before they make the epic 5000km migration back to where they were born in the Sargasso Sea to spawn. All elvers were successfully released in a series of lovely events in rivers local to schools. The children were certainly sad to see them go but have promised to go to their local river and try to spot their elvers in the coming years!

The children were able to hold an elver and let it go
Wick Primary with their trophy and certificate after a successful release event
Oldbury on Severn pupils released their elvers into the Oldbury Naite on a lovely sunny afternoon
Pupils from Christ Church Primary, Clifton, released their elvers into Bristol harbour

The Spawn to be Wild project is an incredibly important project to raise awareness of the European eel. These eels are critically endangered and their long and complicated life cycle means that only a very small percentage of them survive to adulthood. They are an important part of our river ecosystem but with so many barriers to their survival, mainly from human influences, they are now at risk of extinction. The human stresses upon eel survival include climate change, overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and barriers to their migration caused by weirs and dams.

Did you know that the illegal trade of elvers is worth more than the ivory trade?

Through the environmental education delivered in this project the children have become much more aware of the wider world and how humans are having a detrimental impact upon it, which directly impacts the wildlife we find in our local areas. For far too many children outdoor play, especially in or near rivers, has become a thing of the past. In today’s urban society filled with technology many children do not spend time outdoors getting to know common wildlife species and enjoying seeing them in their natural habitats. By bringing wildlife into the classroom we hope that this will inspire the conservationists of the future, making children and their teachers, parents, friends and families more aware of the direct influence we are having on wildlife, and reconnecting them with nature.

A great school display on elver facts and stories

We are pleased to report that we have gone from initial answers to ‘What lives in your local river?’ of ‘sharks’, ‘jellyfish’ and ‘whales’ to types of freshwater invertebrates, aquatic birds and the mammals at the top of the food chain. We have had some brilliant eel questions, such as ‘how does pollution affect the eels senses? and ‘how will elvers get up rivers if we don’t get rid of weirs?’

An elver begins it’s life in the Newton Brook, Bath after being released by Farmborough Primary!

Thank you to Bristol Water, A Forgotten Landscape and the Avon Frome Partnership for funding the project this year and to the Sustainable Eel Group and UK Glass Eels for their support. Here’s to Spawn to be Wild 2020!

Understanding our rivers – BART school visits

Alongside our elver assemblies and check ups for our Spawn to be Wild project, BART have been busy running lessons in our 11 project primary schools.

We have had countless great questions about the elvers, however one in particular got us thinking, ‘Why does it matter if all the eels die?’. To answer this, BART set about running food chain lessons for Reception – Year 4 classes.

Firstly, the children split into groups of 6, where each child was asked to colour in one element of the aquatic food chain. By making these into hats, the children then became their part of the food chain! They were asked to organise themselves into the correct order and we had some great discussions about what eats what. The fastest group was then bought to the front of the class and we discussed what would happen to the rest of the creatures in the food chain if the eels were lost – cue some dramatic death drops to the floor, great acting everyone!

Our food chain hats!

BART have also bought in live river invertebrates and discussed water pollution and water saving during various lessons.

Thanks to everyone who is taking part in this project, we are looking forward to the releases next week!

Thanks to this year’s Spawn to be Wild supporters, Bristol Water, A Forgotten Landscape and the Avon Frome Partnership

Bristol Avon Waterblitz 2019

Bristol Avon Rivers Trust are excited to announce the 2019 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz; a yearly campaign to collect as many water quality samples as possible in a week from across the Bristol Avon Catchment, between Saturday 1st June – Friday 7th June.

Join hundreds of people in using the free and simple to use water testing kit to sample your chosen river or stream in the Bristol Avon catchment (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North East Somerset).

To register and take part, please follow the link below to sign up and you will then receive a free water quality sampling pack in the post. Sampling kits are limited so please register by Friday 24th May to ensure you can participate:

https://tinyurl.com/waterblitz

Thanks to Bristol Water and the Avon Frome Partnership for supporting this year’s Waterblitz!

Spawn to be Wild 2019

BART are delighted to announce that we have bought eels to 11 classrooms along the Bristol Avon for the fourth year running!

The ‘Spawn to be Wild’ project is an innovative education project between Bristol Avon Rivers Trust, Avon Wildlife Trust & Bristol Water that seeks to engage pupils with the wildlife in their local river by bringing the wildlife to their classroom, in the form of the critically endangered European eel, Anguilla anguilla. Suffering declines as great as 97% since the 1970s and more endangered than the red panda, the eel has a fascinating lifecycle that is hugely affected by our everyday lifes. Their preference for moving around at night means that they often go unobserved in our rivers, until now…

The European eel is thought to spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean, before floating in their larval form on ocean currents towards Europe. Once they reach the freshwater estuaries around the coast, they morph into ‘elvers’ and swim up into rivers where they spend up to 20 years living and feeding. Once they have grown and matured, they swim back to the Sargasso Sea where they lay their eggs. Their decline in numbers of up to 97% is due to numerous factors, all of which are thought to be human induced. Structures including weirs, tidal gates and dams all act as barriers to migration as the eels swim up-river, and pollution, climate change, overfishing and habitat loss all have a negative impact on eel survival.

Our elvers from the River Parrett

Approximately 50 elvers, caught by elver fisherman on the River Severn and purchased from UK Glass Eels, have been taken into each primary school. The children were incredibly excited to get their elvers and they all came armed with a huge number of questions which kept BART on their toes! See some from St Andrews below…

Just some of the questions asked by the schools

After 4 weeks of feeding the eels every day, learning about their life history, and their threats to survival, the schools will release them back into their nearest river to begin the next stage of their lives. The eels can spend up to around 60 years in the headwaters of rivers, in small tributaries, ditches and streams before they make the epic 5000km migration back to where they were born in the Sargasso Sea to spawn. BART also run a series of extra lessons throughout the project including river dipping (getting the children in their river, often for the first time), water pollution and food webs.

The project is taking place with the following schools this year:

  • St Andrews, Congresbury
  • Cleeve House School, Bristol
  • Sea Mills Primary, Bristol
  • Torwood House School, Bristol
  • Christ Church Primary, Bristol
  • Wick Primary School, Wick
  • St Marys C of E, Yate
  • Farmborough Primary, Bath
  • Greenfield e-Act Academy, Bristol
  • Oldbury on Severn Primary
  • Severn Beach Primary


Thanks to our wonderful funders Bristol WaterAvon Frome Partnership and A Forgotten Landscape, there are lots of very excited children waiting for the elvers to enter schools in the next couple of weeks! We look forward to sharing the progress of our elvers.

Please feel free to get in touch if your school is interested in taking part next year.

River Chew Fisheries Improvement Strategy

During 2019, BART will be delivering a River Chew Fisheries Improvement Strategy to develop improvement plans which could be made to the river as a fishery. The work will build on the recent Environment Agency fisheries reports highlighting the need for fisheries improvements and will be designed to help scope improvements which may be made from potential future funding.

The project will work with the Environment Agency Fisheries Team, angling clubs, landowners and partners throughout the length of the Chew and its tributaries.

Relationships made during this strand of the wider Chew catchment project will contribute to building a foundation for future interventions.

This project has been made possible via funding from the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency. BART are incredibly thankful for their support to the project.

For further project information please contact simon@bristolavonriverstrust.org