‘By the Light of the Slithery Moon’: the mysterious migration of the Glass Eel

March 30, 2014

At some point between March 17th and March 24th the Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, who I’d customarily see grazing around the shores of Tipner Lake, must have started their flight back to the Taimyr Peninsula on the Arctic Circle. They seem to have timed their departure from this bit of the Solent to coincide with the Equinox. Safe journey.


Tomorrow night over a million young eels are expected to swim up the River Parrett, which flows through Dorset and Somerset, ‘exploiting a spring tide and a full moon to arrive in unprecedented numbers’ (IoS 30/3/14). Their anticipated passage up this channel is almost a metaphor for the mysteries of life and generation, ruled by the moon. This arrival of the ‘glass eels’ – so named because of their translucent appearance in their juvenile form – is prompting a massive operation by conservationists (see here) to catch as many of them as possible, to transport them round the man-made obstacles of weirs and flood defences blocking their passage upstream.


The sheer numbers due mark a revival in fortunes for the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), as mysterious as its mass migration from its unknown spawning grounds, thought to be in the Sargasso Sea south of Bermuda. From 1979 levels the population of glass eels declined by up to 99 per cent, leading to the classification of the once-common European eel as ‘critically endangered’. Their unexpected revival in the last three years is unexplained (IoS 30/3/14).

Dream of SirensOne thing I have noticed today is that the middle siren of Leonora Carrington’s triptych, Sueño de Sirenas (1963) – ‘The Dream of the Sirens’ – appears to be wearing an ‘eel pot hat’ (as opposed to a top hat). Here are some woven eel traps/eel pots for comparison…


Woven eel traps, found on this site


Edit 17/4/14  – Today, I came across this interesting project


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