The Decline of Eels: Julia Manning
Print artist Julia Manning and the internationally acclaimed eel expert Andy Don are jointly engaged in presenting the extraordinary narrative of the life of eels. Julia Manning is renowned for her distinctive original woodcuts. Manning has been working over the last 12 months creating a series of prints that tell this remarkable story of the Eel, our local wildlife and its connection to the global world.
"This project has been the catalyst for me learning and enjoying so many new things about our fabulous coastline in general, and the important role we all have in managing our rivers, coastline and seas, especially in the light of my new-found understanding of this critically endangered animal.
There are vast migrations out of, and into, the rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands around Bridgwater and Burnham on Sea, making Bridgwater Bay an incredibly important and special location. The majority of Somerset’s silver eels swim under the M5 bridges, the railway lines and many pass the pier at Burnham on dark, stormy, wild nights. Using high river flows and the tides to their advantage in late October and November, they are completely single- minded in their quest to reach the Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda, some 3500 miles away where they breed and then die. There is then the hazardous new journey back towards Europe and transformation of eggs into larvae, then leptocephali and then glass eels. In their 3500 mile journey these juveniles might succumb to rogue currents, starvation, or fall prey to fish and seabirds. The surviving glass eels teem into Bridgwater Bay in February time. They use tidal flows to get transported into our river systems in the spring, where they then turn into elvers and subsequently yellow eels. They stay in our Somerset freshwaters for many years, up to 25, before feeling the pull of the sea and heading out on their final migration.
I want to make people from Somerset and further afield aware of what we could be losing, by impediments to their migration such as weirs and other man-made structures, also the mortality caused by being drawn into lethal intakes such as pumping stations, hydropower plants and nuclear power stations.
Other pressures have been man’s greed by illegal exploitation (smuggling millions of glass eels to Asia), climate change (the shifting of the currents on which the Leptocephali drift and rely) and invasive parasites introduced from abroad.
I could not believe that this dramatic saga is unfolding annually on our coastal doorstep. The story of our Somerset eels seems to resonate across all species. I felt compelled to capture some of these themes in my relief editioned prints - Our local wildlife is truly showing its connection to the global world."
- Julia Manning
Artworks Each artwork is in order, click the image to read each story