Science Interviews


Wed, 10th Nov 2010

Critter of the Month - European Eel

Dan Laffoley, IUCN

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Protecting the seas

The illusive and critically endangered European eel features as our critter of the month.

European Eel

Find out more

Anguilla anguilla, information on the IUCN Red List


Hi. My nameís Dan Laffoley. Iím marine vice chair of the World Commission for Protected Areas for IUCN, thatís the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. And my critter of the month is the eel.

Now why might you ask, the eel? Youíre probably familiar with it in terms of a muddy stream or estuary, but the eel really is an ocean champion and really epitomises the challenge we have with protecting the seas.

When itís ready to spawn, it leaves the estuaries, goes into the sea, stops feeding, it even changes its shape, its eyes get bigger, and its colour gets different so it can be disguised as it goes on perhaps a 4000 mile migration to the Sargasso Sea. 

And in this amazing floating golden rainforest in the North Atlantic, thatís where new eels are spawned and born. And then over the next 7-11 months, they drift back slowly towards the UK and finally transit back into the estuaries.

And theyíre ocean champions because they tell us that the ocean and the land are connected. And they very much reflect in what I try and do in my role globally which is try and explain why the 70% of the earth covered by the ocean really matters. And in a sense, like the eels, so we are dependent on the ocean.

For every breath we take, and every sip of water we drink it links us back to the seas. And in a sense the eels shows us that if thereís no blue thereís no green. If we didnít have the ocean we wouldnít have eels. 

Eels also epitomise the challenge we have to conserve a species that is so dependent both in terms of freshwater and in terms of marine waters.

And that really brings home to us the challenge we face in terms of understanding just what the ocean does for us and in understanding that we need to care so much more for the ocean if weíre going to have a bright future on planet earth.


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