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ACIP Internationalization Series: Fishers and Eels: Disappearing Livelihoods and Endangered Species in an Age of Extinction
Though for centuries perhaps the most commonly eaten fish in Europe, the European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) is critically endangered, having declined in population by more than 95% since the 1960s. Bearing witness to this eco-social transformation is the aging last generation of eel catchers, whose labour and livelihood once supplied the British public with eel. With few young eel catchers adopting the profession, the skills, knowledge, memories, and experience of small-scale commercial eel fishing in the UK is set to pass into extinction, even if the eel itself narrowly avoids it.

Drawing on recent work in the extinction studies, multi-species geographies, and oral history, this paper narrates the multiple borderland crossings of the fisher/eel relation—rural/urban, abundance/extinction, life/death, and more—in the context of the longstanding Norfolk-London eel trade. The paper relies on interviews and archival materials from an eel fisher who, acutely aware of the crisis of the eel and their profession, reflects on the meaning of extinction, recounts historical practices of eel fishing, and examines their own role in this moment of environmental transformation. Lastly, the paper considers the role of oral history, living memory, and disappearing environmental knowledge in an age of extinction.

Dec 2, 2022 07:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Seth Gustafson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Applied Environmental Science @CSUMB
Dr. Seth Gustafson was recently appointed in August as an assistant professor in the Applied Environmental Science department here at CSUMB. From 2016-2022, he was a Lecturer in Human Geography in the Department of Geography at University College London. There, he convened the MSc in Environment, Politics, and Society, and taught and researched generally on topics of urban environmental politics, problems, and histories. Prior to joining UCL, he was a post-doctoral research associate at the Sustainability Research Centre of the University of Bremen (Germany) with INTERCOAST, an interdisciplinary coastal research post-graduate training programme split between Germany and New Zealand. Dr. Gustafson finished his PhD in Geography in 2014 at the University of Georgia (USA), which examined how urbanisation is changing environmental politics in historically rural areas of Appalachia. Before moving to CSUMB, he was writing on two topics pertaining to eels in London and urban air pollution.