American Eels at risk from poaching

American eels live in the Hudson River and its fresh water tributaries and only leave to migrate back to the Sargasso Sea, where they were born, to spawn. They are a catadromous fish found along the East Coast of North America and their unique natural history makes them one of the most fascinating animals in our local streams, and the Hudson River Estuary. After she has migrated to the Sargasso Sea the female can lay up to a few million eggs and dies after egg laying. The eggs hatch without parental help and the early stage larvae develop into leptocephali who then drift on the currents toward North America where they metamorphose into glass eels. They then return to their natal rivers and streams to renew the whole life cycle. They can live ten to twenty five years as they mature into adult eels, where they feed on crustaceans and aquatic organisms.

The eels economic value has grown as there is a big demand for them and higher prices have followed. The Associated Press reported that Federal Agencies are now actively pursuing poachers along the East Coast as this practice is jeopardizing the species long term sustainability. “A well-managed eel fishery is critical to the health of rivers and streams they live in” said US Fish & Wildlife Service Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement Ed Grace. “Eels are both predator and prey feeding on fish and mollusks and being eaten by larger fish, sea birds and turtles”.