American eels face a battle in migration because of changing stream habitats and dammed rivers. It was thought that they might make the Endangered Species List this year, but they will not says the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
One reason for not listing them is the removal of 13 dams in the northeast U.S. The USFWS still recommends that efforts continue to build healthy habitats, and that harvest levels are monitored. Efforts are also being made to upgrade river routes to make them easier for migrating eels.
The American eel is the only freshwater eel found in North America.. Eels were part of the diet of New Jersey colonial settlers who saw them harvested in large numbers by American Indians.
Their snakelike appearance makes most people imagine that they are not fish, but they are fish that have fins and can breathe underwater with gills instead of lungs.
After Hurricane Sandy, the USFWS 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.
These eels begin their lives in the ocean, live in freshwater rivers, then spawn in the ocean. They live in rivers from Venezuela to Greenland and migrate to the North Atlantic to spawn with their preferred spawning ground being the Sargasso Sea.
Not all eels will migrate to freshwater for the winter, though why some eels move inland and others do not is not known. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, many people once thought that male eels remained in the estuarine waters and only females went upstream to freshwater. Territories for eels may be determined more by density with higher concentrations more likely to be males.
American eels are not exclusively "American" as in the United States but as in "the Americas." Eels are panmictic, meaning that as a species they have one population worldwide, as a result of their random mating behavior.
Species Profile: American Eel in NJ
In 2013, the Aquarion Water Company, The Nature Conservancy, Sacred Heart University, the U.S. Geological Survey's Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Laboratory in Turner's Falls, Mass., and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) collaborated to release and monitor 30 radio-transmitter-tagged eels into the Aspetuck River in Easton, Connecticut. The three releases, which included 10 eels each, were scheduled to coincide with significant rain events to spur the eels' migrations, encouraging them to move downstream to salt water where they spawn.