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Eel: Slipping By The Endangered Species List This Time, Says FWS [VIDEO]

Oct 07, 2015 05:34 PM EDT
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The American eel won't be placed under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection at this point, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said recently. The agency does, however, recommend that efforts continue to build healthy habitats, keep an eye on harvest levels and upgrade river routes for migrating eels, as they noted on their website.

Here's the story with American Eels: They begin their lives in the ocean, live in freshwater rivers, then spawn in the ocean. Their spawning ground of choice is the Sargasso Sea, in the North Atlantic. One of eels' obstacles in reaching that sea is dams, such as the one in the Aspetuck River, in Connecticut. If water flow is high enough, eel swim over the dam and proceed safely toward the ocean in most cases. But if not, in some cases they swim under the dam and end up in a reservoir, where their migration dead-ends, as this video notes.

Also, don't be confused by the name "American eel." These eels leave waters from as far north as Greenland and as far south as Venezuela to head toward the Sargasso Sea. So "American" means in the Americas in this case. As larvae, the eels return to freshwater, estuarine and marine waters.

Also, fascinatingly, eels are panmictic, meaning that as a species they have one population worldwide--a result of their random mating behavior.

More practically for humans, eels were an important part of the diet of earlier colonial settlers and were harvested for thousands of years by Native Americans.

In terms of further restoration of American eels, after Hurricane Sandy, the FWS also gained $10.4 million in resilience funding for fish passage--and this is being used to remove 13 dams in Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Go here for a video of American eel restoration efforts in the Aspetuck River in Connecticut.

Go here for a narration on the migration of the American Eel.

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