Heather Bell 413/253-8645; Diana Weaver 413/253-8329
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service has completed its evaluation of the petition to list the American eel as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and determined that substantial biological information exists to warrant a more in-depth examination of its status. This finding will commence with a status review of the species, and once the review is complete, the Services will determine whether to propose listing the species.
"During the review, a comment period will serve as an invitation to provide biological information so we will have all the best available scientific information on which to base decisions," the Fish and Wildlife Services Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty said.
The American eel lives from Greenland south along the North American coast to Brazil in South America. In the United States it lives inland to the Great Lakes and in the Mississippi River drainage.
0Todays decision, commonly known as a 90-Day Finding, is based on scientific information about the species provided in the petition requesting listing of the species under the Act. The finding is published in todays Federal Register The finding on the petition does not mean that the Services have decided it is appropriate to list the American eel. Rather, this finding is the first step in a long process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available. This process, which includes a request for input from the public, should be completed within 12 months of receiving the petition. This status review will determine whether the American eel warrants protection.
To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Services are soliciting information from State and Federal natural resource agencies, tribes, other countries, and interested parties regarding the American eel.
0Based on the status review, the Services jointly will decide if listing is warranted. If listing is not warranted, no further action will be taken.
0If listing is warranted, one of the Services will publish a proposal to list, solicit independent scientific peer review of the proposal, seek input from the public, and consider the input before a final decision is made about listing the species. Generally, there is a one-year period between the time a species is proposed and the final decision.
The only freshwater eel in the Western hemisphere, American eels begin their lives in the mid-Atlantic Sargasso Sea. About a year later, they migrate to freshwater rivers and lakes and coastal areas where they live for seven to 30 years. At maturity, eels return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die. Because the eel spends a portion of its life in the marine environment and a portion of its life in freshwater, it falls under the responsibilities of both agencies, so they work together on the issue.
Douglas Harold Watts of Augusta, Maine, and Timothy Allan Watts of South Middleborough, Mass., petitioned the two Services to extend ESA protection to the American eel. Prior to receiving the petition, the Services had already agreed to review the American eel status at the request of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (representing 15 states from Maine to Florida) in light of an apparent decline in commercial eel harvest.
Anyone wishing to submit information regarding the American eel may do so by writing to: Martin Miller, Chief, Endangered Species, Northeast Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035 or by electronic mail to: AmericanEel@fws.gov Comments must be received by Sept. 4, 2005.
For more information about the American eel and this finding, please visit the Fish and Wildlife Services Web site at http://northeast.fws.gov/ameel/
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