Eel ©Jack Perks


Scientific name: Anguilla anguilla
The eel is famous for both its slippery nature and its mammoth migration from its freshwater home to the Sargasso Sea where it breeds. It has suffered dramatic declines and is a protected species.

Species information


Length: up to 1m
Weight: 0.5-5kg
Average Lifespan: 15-70 years

Conservation status

Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Listed as Critically Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December


The eel is a very long, narrow fish that can grow to over a metre in length. It looks smooth and lacks the obvious scales and gills of other fish. It can be found in rivers and ditches, but leaves its freshwater home to breed in an area of the west Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea. Young eels (known as 'Elvers') return to freshwater rivers to develop. Eels are predators and scavengers, feeding on dead animals, fish eggs, invertebrates and other fish.

How to identify

The eel is a snake-like freshwater fish. A group of bizarre fish called lampreys look similar but have large sucker-like mouths and no pectoral fins. Eels range in colour above, from silver to olive-green, and have yellow bellies.



Did you know?

Eels are able to survive out of water for quite a long time and may crawl through wet grass to reach water.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with planners, water companies, landowners, statutory bodies and anglers to help make our waterways and waterbodies as good for wildlife as they are for people. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.