American eel now an endangered species

American eel now an endangered species

CORNWALL, Ontario - The St. Lawrence River Institute hosts its monthly Science & Nature Series at the Cornwall Public Library with a presentation on American Eels.

The presentation Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. will be led by scientist Matt Windle and focus on the American Eel and his research into this unique species on the St. Lawrence River.

The American eel is the only freshwater eel species found in Canada.

Historically it was one of the most abundant and important members of the near shore fish community in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario watersheds. No longer, since the 1980s, the Ontario population of American eels has declined sharply, and they are currently listed as endangered under Ontario Endangered Species Act.

The average number of eels migrating up the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall decreased from 25,000 per day in the 1980s to roughly 230 per day in 2005.

All native eels in Ontario are female, living in freshwater habitats for most of their lives before migrating to the ocean to spawn and die. As such, they are vulnerable to habitat loss from barriers and hydroelectric dams that block their migrations, as well as from exploitation from the global commercial fishery.

Eels have also been culturally very important to many First Nations peoples, including the Mohawks of Akwesasne, and at one time they provided a key seasonal food source.

“The identification and protection of critical habitat has been listed as a priority for the recovery for this species”, said Windle.

Over the coming months he will be focusing on characterizing the critical habitat of the American Eel in the Upper St. Lawrence River by consolidating existing data and documenting the eel’s behavioral ecology.

His project is funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk Stewardship Fund. This project also includes mentorship opportunities for students and the public to learn more about this unique fish species by volunteering.

For more information about this project or to reserve your spot for this fascinating talk please call 613-936-6620.

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