Bristol Fish Project CIC (est 2011) is an inventive local community business (not-for-profit) that applies a community-centric alternative approach to mainstream corporate food production and consumption. Through our community-supported facility in an income-deprived area of Bristol we seek to research, demonstrate and share the application of circular economics to ecologically regenerative community-food. Our model, run by the community for the benefit of the community, integrates community food waste into food production and conservation through innovative, hi-tech farming methods. We centre on aquaponics (growing Eels and Watercress in a recirculating water-based system), but also approach insect production and applications of artificial intelligence for precision growing. Our production methods interact in a symbiotic manner with the natural environment -unlike conventional food production practices, and seek to enhance the lives of people and the welfare of livestock.

The profit-centric food-value-chain is not going away. The evidence is that for communities and environment, this value-chain does not meet their needs with severe, and generation-transcending repercussions in health and wellbeing of people and places. This is why we anchor our agri-innovation in the hands of the community, and why we have centred our efforts on bringing futuristic, integrated production and regeneration methods into a community setting with a view to giving over decision making and ownership of this to the community. We combine this with community resilience development and re-skilling and implementing ecological regeneration. We are starting now to be part of the future we want for our food system.

Work with Critically Endangered Anguilla anguilla.

In 2015 we elected to use European eels (Anguilla anguilla) in our production because we could see that this species would provide the best opportunity to operate our business in a restorative / regenerative manner. We want to bring people closer to their food and to their environment / place and regenerative / restorative farming is a mechanism that we see as integral to doing food better. Eels are an integral part of the local landscape here in the Bristol Channel, are critically endangered. As a fish the European eel also meets our production needs for a species tolerant of a 19 °C culture temperature, able to be cultured at high densities, omnivorous, with an optimum pH ideal for an established aquaponics system (6.8 – 7.5) and tolerant to the higher pH of our local water supply. So we adapted our concept to centre around the production of eels. In April 2016 we brought in eels from a certified  sustainable source (UK Glass Eels) and began our trial of eel husbandry in an aquaponic system at our facility and have been pleased with the results. The proposed project builds on this small test and a prior pilot of aquaponics as a cultivation method that took place in 2012-13.

Since then we have begun work on designing and building a modular system for production based on readily available materials – as part of our ‘make it accessible to others’ modus operandi.

With our levels of understanding of eels as a species growing all the time, we aim to become a conservation oriented certified ‘sustainable producer’ of eels over the coming 4 years, making us part of the sustainable supply chain.

Eel Conservation – Theory of Change

Vision –We share SEG’s desired Impact of: Healthy Eel Populations, Distributed throughout their natural range, fulfilling their role in the aquatic environment and supporting sustainable use for the benefit of communities, local economies and traditions


Current Reality -European Eels are considered critically endangered. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is recognised to be in systematic, steep decline. A complex web of interacting factors are attributed to this trajectory – overfishing, climate change, barriers to Eel migration routes, changes in predation and poor hobbyist practices, to name very few. It is hoped that a combination of approaches can push back against this trend. There are many projects that share the vision of restoring the European Eel population. This project works alongside, with and for these projects.


Assertion – This project seeks to contribute to the regeneration of the European Eel by (re)connecting communities with eels and eel conservation using a place-based-approach. Therein we approach challenges of:

  • Lack of public awareness of the Eel and the fate of the Eel
  • Low numbers of release projects
  • Lack of healthy Juvenile Eels available for community-scale restocking programmes
  • despite the River Severn complying with the 40% escapement target there are still concerns that “the major pressure operating on eel populations is poor access to habitat because of obstructions”…”leading to high density-dependent mortality in the lower reaches”
  • Poor hobbyist fishing practices


Via the following interventions:

  1. Improving awareness of the Eel in communities in Bristol in 2017,18 and beyond
  2. Sourcing glass eels from a sustainable fishery and providing a minimum of 60% of purchased eels for restocking. We will work with the Sustainable Eel Group to provide targeted, informed restocking efforts with the goal of moving densely stocked glass eels from the lower reaches, ongrowing these eels through this high-risk period and releasing them into more suitable habitats across the Bristol-Avon Catchment, including newly improved or accessible habitats. Bristol Fish Project intends to move from wild caught to bred glass eels as soon as these become commercially available, however we will remain committed to our participation in restocking programs, education and community projects.
  3. Ensuring Eels are available, affordable and accessible for education and community projects (e.g. Eels in Schools) – through Eels for schools, children nurture the elvers over a five week period before releasing them into the local catchment. Whilst their elvers grow the children learn about the eels’ fascinating lifecycle, the challenges they have to overcome to make it up our rivers and what they, and all their classmates, can do to help save the eel.
  4. Helping the recreational fishing community to adapt their behaviours towards a conservation approach.
  5. Training people in innovative cultivation skills (aquaponics)
Measuring Success – Some aspects of the proposed project are readily measurable:

  • production system data, including temperature, flow rates, water quality, etc are already recorded.
  • increases in production capacity of both plant and fish production on site, (also measured against water consumption, water quality and energy consumption)
  • eel throughput: we intend to release a minimum of 60% of elvers that we take in into the wild and retaining 40% for consumption at a minimum of 200g per eel, eel numbers will increase from an initial 500 in our pilot, and ~12000 from our current 1 system in year 1, to some ~30000 eels for restocking in year 4 once all 4 proposed systems are running at capacity (though factoring in normal attrition – wherein we nonetheless anticipate losses of <10%).
  • Numbers of local children that through our regular engagements with the spawn to be wild / eels for schools programme
  • Our engagement at Bristol Aquarium will give the opportunity for >10,000 pupils to engage with eel conservation.
  • Our website and social media reach are closely monitored
  • To capture the way opinion of eels and eel husbandry might change over time, people engaged in the project will be encouraged to take part in a survey – to gauge if this has altered post engagement.
Innovative, sustainable funding model – In order to secure long-term conservation aims of this project Bristol Fish puts forward a portfolio of revenue-generation activities, ensuring the overall financial viability of this project whilst also meeting our overarching aims. Whilst we will continue to pursue grant funding opportunities for specific projects, we are keen that the EMFF funding leads towards a non-grant-dependent means of financing our eel conservation activities.

The Sustainable Eel Mechanism allows us to sell a maximum of 40% of eels cultivated onsite into the food value chain for money, alongside our other revenue generating activities (see cashflow). Within our budget all of the funds generated by the sale of eels are used pay for all the activities required to cultivate more eels as well as deliver educational programmes relating to eel release programmes., rather than to profiteer from the cultivation of a critically endangered species. We reiterate here that we will move from wild-caught to bred-eels as soon as these become commercially available.



7 thoughts on “About

  1. Steve Anderson says:

    Only just found out about this exciting project.Do you have any ‘fishy’ artwork and maybe promotional material that you’d like to display or create at Bristol North Baths? Facebook page: “The Deep End”.It seems that both projects have a considerable overlap in terms of art and community.You’ll have to be quick though-our rolling lease may well expire in 2 weeks!

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Alice,
    talking today to some friends I remembered your item on Points West a while ago. Your project is absolutley something I would be very interested in looking at. Both as a community item but possibly a small comercial enterprise. I own a small field (3 acres or so) near Bitton which has my daughters horse on. I have kept sheep and a few pigs there and try to grow some veg etc.
    I have been involved with a community group for over 25 years and think you have a fantastic idea. As a species we need to be able to guarantee our food sources into the future and closed eco system methods will ultimatley prove the best way of getting consistant quantity and quality at the right price. Could I come over when its convienient to you to have a look at what you are doing ?
    Kind regards

    • robdesbois says:

      Hi Peter – what is the community group you are involved with? My family and I live just outside Bitton, and although work and our 1-year old keep us busy we’d be interested in getting involved with a local permaculture group.

    • alicemariearcher says:

      Hi Michael,

      Not sure what you mean? We make regular updates through the blog – perhaps this isn’t the info you want? Alice

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