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190 × 135 mm
184 pages
88 illustrations, 45 in colour
15 May 2009

Eel Richard Schweid

Although it might seem the most mundane of fish when pulled from the mud of creeks, ponds, rivers or the sea, the eel's life cycle is one of the most remarkable on the planet. Freshwater eels are born, according to current scientific theory, in remote ocean depths, and journey thousands of miles to fresh water where they spend their lives, before returning to the ocean to mate and die. A favourite food for humans since antiquity, feeding London's poor during the Middle Ages, and saving the Mayflower pilgrims from starvation on North America's shore, these days the Japanese alone account for an eel consumption worth over a billion pounds a year.

Richard Schweid chronicles these creatures in all their aspects: their natural history to their market value; their occurence in art and literature; and their present threatened status. The eel is considered by many to be currently on the road to extinction, and despite repeated attempts to farm them, and the expenditure of huge amounts of time and money, eels have steadfastly refused to reproduce successfully in captivity, apparently requiring the vastness of the open ocean to begin their long drift toward maturity.

Containing many little-known facts about this rather surprising fish, this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys well-written natural history, or who wants to learn more about an animal that deserves much more attention than it has received to date.

‘where Schweid excels in in his wonderfully illustrated historical account of the use that man has made of the eel, a story that extends from prehistory . . . to the gross abuse of the eel resource at the hand of global markets and intensive aquaculture. Eel is a book to be enjoyed and often reread, a social history of real substance which echoes the best of Victorian writing.’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘. . . Here is a look at some of my other top choices. Eel by Richard Schweid . . . this pretty little book tells you all you could wish to know about the natural history and the culinary history of this delicious, disappearing fish.’ – Paul Levy, Wall Street Journal

‘If you are remotely interested in fish, the countryside and its wildlife, then this should be on your bookshelf . . . it will form a benchmark on the vexed subject of eels for some time to come. A book that many will try to emulate.’ – Highland News

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Richard Schweid is senior editor of Barcelona Metropolitan magazine, and the author of many books, including Consider the Eel (2002), Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile: On the Road in Cuba (2004), and Hereafter: Searching for Immortality (2006).