Whilst walking along a river, near the outskirts of the city of Bristol, researcher & writer Ben GJ Thomas came across a faded noticeboard, likely put up by the council during a more utopian time of public education. There were big italic letters, and a drawing of an eel with what can only be described as a grin. The board explained how eels start life in the Sargasso Sea, just north of Bermuda; a space both mythic and real in equal measure. They are carried along the gulf stream, up the coast of North America then out across the Atlantic. As such, eels populate river systems on both sides of the ocean. Here in the River Severn, young eels arrive on a high tide in late spring. They choose to call this river home for many decades before returning across the ocean once more, to reproduce and ultimately die.
In this episode, Ben explores the role of eels in shaping lives across both shores of the Atlantic. The story takes us on a journey from a monastery in medieval England, to the fight to uphold Indigenous fishing practices across so-called Canada today. Through conversations with writers and philosophers, we explore why eels matter, asking what it means to think alongside this endangered creature.