An ‘Eel-lite Team’ at Sedbergh Primary School is caring for a tankful of European eels, a critically endangered species.
Pupils took delivery of around 50 young eels, known as ‘elvers’, at the end of April. The fish had been caught in the Severn.
The Lune Rivers Trust in partnership with the National Park Authority is leading regular classes at the school, teaching the children about the lifecycle of an eel as well as more broadly about life in local rivers.
In late-June, the Eel-lite Team of four year six boys will release the 50 eels in their care into the Rawthey, a river where eels were once abundant but are now scarce.
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Louisa Blundell from the Lune Rivers Trust said: “I grew up in the Lune catchment and eels were prevalent, but now numbers are massively in decline. It’s believed stocks have declined globally by 90 per cent. There are issues at sea but also inland with problems such as Skerton Weir in Lancashire blocking the way. Eels are a sweet treat for otters and fish-eating birds and are an important part of the health of local riverlife.
“It’s been a huge commitment from Sedbergh Primary School to take on the eels and help re-stock the Rawthey. The pupils have been great. They’re going to come into the school during half-term to make sure the eels are fed.”
Sedbergh Primary School headteacher, Matthew Towe, said: “Many organisations rightly want to work in schools. This project stood out straight away. Having the eels in the classroom has proved an effective way of engaging the children in nature conservation and more widely in the health of the Rawthey, which flows only a stone’s throw away from our school.”
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Member Champion for Natural Environment, Ian McPherson, said: “Congratulations Sedbergh Primary School for looking after the eels. The enthusiasm with which the Eel-lite Team has carried out its duties shows how keen young people are to learn about the natural environment and care for it.”
Part of the funding from the project came from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, with pupils successfully applying for a grant from the trust’s Green Futures Youth Action Fund.