Ontario asks: where are the American eels?

The American eel. Seen any lately? Unfortunately, in Ontario, probably not.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority wants information about the distribution and health of these slippery, amazing and endangered fish in Ontario rivers and lakes. A recent RVCA press release was very educational:

The American Eel is often confused with snakes or lampreys, but eels are a type of fish with fins, gills and very small scales. These eels are particularly interesting and unique as they travel over 6,000 kilometres from the Sargasso Sea near the Bermuda Triangle to live in our local freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. Once mature, anywhere from 10 to 25 years old, they return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die and the migration cycle for the next generation begins again.

In the summer of 2010, RVCA summer staff conducted surveys for American Eels during their field research activities. The goal was to learn about their distribution and habitat in both the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers. No eels were found but this is not surprising given that the eel population in the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario has declined by 99 percent since the 1970s. In fact, Ontario cancelled all commercial and recreational fishing of the American Eel in 2004 to protect dwindling numbers.

The future of the American eel in Ontario waters is uncertain, but everyone recognizes that it is an important part of the diversity of life in our watercourses. Anglers and outdoor enthusiast are asked to help. If you see or catch and American Eel while fishing contact the RVCA (613-692-3571 ext. 1176 or michael.yee@rvca.ca) or the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with details such as the location, bait or lure type, time of day, estimated length and general habitat. A picture would also be helpful. If you accidently catch an American Eel, please release it immediately unharmed.

Again, reports are being sought for eel sightings in Ontario waters. Tom Spears has a good article on the American eel situation in Eastern Ontario in today’s Ottawa Citizen. The main problem seems to be dams, which block eel movement or literally chops them up in the hydro-electric turbines. (Eww!)

There’s concern for the health of this species in the U.S. as well, as presented in eel advocacy sites like this. Eels can be rather scary-looking but the photos there make them look cute. Sort of.

Looks aside, eels are an important part of aquatic eco-systems which makes this a matter of public concern.

Anybody got any good eel stories?

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3 Responses to “Ontario asks: where are the American eels?”

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  1. oa says:

    Great article on eels, here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/eels/prosek-text

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    Good eel stories? Hmmm. Do you know what happens when you grab an eel you’ve caught? They almost instantly wrap around your arm causing you (in your 10 year old imagination) to think that this slimy, snakelike creature is about to eat you. This of course causes you to go into typical 10 year old girl hysterics, nearly wet yourself, rock the boat so violently that Dads beer goes overboard, which of course sets Dad off and adds to the general screaming, thrashing and humiliation, which is of course made even worse since you are still screaming like the aforementioned 10 year old girl and you are most definitely a 10 year old boy!

    Not that anything like ever happened to me…

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  3. Myown says:

    Bret, I’m glad nothing like that ever happened to you. ;-)

    It sounds like a traumatic experience – but a very funny story. Thanks.

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