Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

Thames Catchment Community Eels Project

One of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund.


ARK have been working on this project in partnership with Thames Rivers TrustSouth East Rivers Trust and Thames21 to help the long-term survival of the European eel.

The rivers in the Thames catchment (including the Kennet and the Pang) have an immense natural and cultural heritage. The eel was once common, yet is now critically endangered.

Working closely with the Zoological Society of London and Thames Estuary Partnership we have developed a methodology for citizen science eel barrier walkover surveys (known as ObstacEELS) that allows trained volunteers to identify, assess and map barriers in rivers to eel migration. This new up to date data is helping us make strategic prioritisations for future fish passage projects, including eels.

For eels to fulfil their complex life cycle they need to be able to freely move up and down river systems before returning to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

The project has provided variety of ways for communities, whether individually or in groups to get involved. For more infomation click here

Volunteering opportunities

We have trained 31 volunteers to use ObstacEELS to identify, assess and map barriers on the Kennet and the Pang. ARK's volunteers surveyed 163km of the River Pang and River Kennet.

To see our Kennet and Pang Fish Migration Visions click here.


Schools and wider community outreach
Innovative school eel workshops and assemblies were delivered at the river, in the classroom and through live online sessions with schools in the Middle and Lower Kennet catchment and the Pang catchment. We delivered workshops and assemblies in 9 schools and spoke to 668 pupils! 

We've some really eely eel educational resources available, these can be downloaded.


Eel riverbank walks and talks
Wherever possible we've reached out to communities to offer our riverbank walks. These have been relaxed opportunities for people of all ages to connect with nature through enjoying a leisurely strolls on their local riverbanks, discovering the fascinating life of the European eel and the problems it is facing, as well as taking in the wealth of other wildlife in and by these chalk streams. During this project ARK took 192 people on riverbank walks on the River Pang and River Kennet. 
Talks were delivered in person or via Zoom, reaching a wide range of individuals, as well as children and adult groups and clubs.



Learn more about the project

Thames Estuary Partnership’s Blog What is r-eely going on?

Talk of the Thames Podcast What is r-eely going on? Thames Catchment Community Project

Natural Apptitude’s December Blog, it’s all about ObstacEELS OurApp is Making a Splash in the Thames!

Our co-written case study ‘Eels in the Thames’ in the October 2021 edition of  Environmental Scientist, exploring the phenomenon of animal migration, what our project has done to help and the data so far. See page 22:

We delivered this exciting partnership project between December 2020 and March 2022. 

Play our fantastic free online game and follow the life cycle of a European eel

Help Eely on an epic migration from the Sargasso Sea to reach healthy river habitats in the River Thames and its tributaries.

Click on the picture below to play!