TRACKING EUROPEAN EEL ON THEIR SPAWNING MIGRATION
Collaborators: Environment Agency, Zoological Society of London, The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Natural England, University of the Azores, Technical University of Denmark, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Location: Azores, Portugal
The current status of the European eel is of significant concern. It is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, listed in Appendix II of CITES and is presently banned from export outside of EU countries. Multiple threats impact the species at each stage of the life cycle including overexploitation by fisheries, pollution, habitat loss, climate change, eel specific pathogens, and engineered structures that delay or prevent free migration between freshwater and marine environments.
There is a general dearth of knowledge relating to the oceanic phase of eel migration and it is still only hypothesised that the Sargasso Sea is the singular spawning area based on catches of leptocephali larvae (Schmidt 1925); no eggs or adult eels have been recorded in this area. Answering the fundamental questions of where eels spawn and how they get there is urgently needed to aid conservation efforts and support stock recovery.
Considerable advances have been made by previous studies using satellite tracking techniques to determine the oceanic migration of silver eels from northern and southern Europe. The waters around the Azores were the last point to which eels were tracked from continental waters. Using similar state-of-the-art satellite telemetry, the current study aims to track adult eels from the Azores (for up to 18 months) to determine migration routes and behaviours during their oceanic spawning migration.