This post has everything to know about eels. Eels are fascinating fish (they are not snakes) and we only have 2 species, who are born in the Sargasso Sea, and take 3 years to reach our waters. Unfortunately many don’t live that long, as they are fished out to become jellied eels (usually bound together with beef gelatine), often sold in London’s east end.
European eels (Anguilla anguilla) are classed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. International trade is banned without a CITES permit, but is legal (with restrictions) in the EU, which is why jellied eels are still sold. The species of eel is not always specified on products, so make sure you contact suppliers for specific sourcing information, or avoid. For further information on finding a solution for the sustainable recovery of eels and certified fisheries, please visit Sustainable Eel Group.
Eels look like snakes, because they have large mouths, but no fins. Don’t be surprised if you see one in the wet grass, as they can crawl over it, to reach water. They have no scales but very sharp teeth and sometimes spring out from caves! Moray eels abroad can grow up to 5 feet (one species is 13 feet long). And we know that electric eels shock their prey.
So you may ask, if they are endangered, what are jellied eels? There are limits on how many are caught, although ‘glass eels’ is now an illegal wildlife trade in the Far East. You can make mock eel and buy vegan jellied eels (with mushrooms, so keep away from pets). Unami is a new food product created by a top chef in the US, who started his business making tuna made from tomatoes. By adding various ingredients like soy sauce and Konjac powder, he has replicated the exact taste and mouthfeel.
Extraordinary Books about Eels
- The Superpower Field Guide to Eels is a fun illustrated guide from Olenka. She may be slimy, wiggly and the colour of mud, but she is here to teach you all about eels. Let her amaze you with her double invisibility, shape-shifting and deep-sea hideouts. In fact, she’s so smart that she has baffled the smartest scientists in the world, for thousands of years.
- The Gospel of the Eels weaves natural history with philosophy, a book about one of nature’s strangest creatures. Born as a tiny larva that travels 4000 miles over 2 years around European coasts, it then arrives in freshwater to live a solitary life, before migrating back to the sea, where it breeds and dies. Yet eels are now disappearing, but no-one knows why. Did you know that if you put a drop of rosewater at the foot of the Alps, an eel could smell it?
- Great Adaptations shows how creatures adapt to life. Learn how electric eels paralyse prey, star-nosed moles have super-sensing snouts, tentacle spiders lead prey straight into their mouths and emerald jewel wasps make zombies out of cockroaches.