Maryland Fishery Resources Office
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Eel Migration Study

American eels were historically one of the most abundant fish species in east coast rivers. American eels, which migrate upstream as juveniles and back to the ocean as spawning adults, play a critical role in ecosystems ranging from fresh water to salt water, and also support commercial fisheries along the Atlantic Coast.

American eel populations have declined in recent years, partly due to habitat loss. Dams on rivers preclude young eels from reaching historical upstream habitat. In some cases where eels are able to get upstream of dams, downstream passage for the out-migrating adult eels can pose a problem.

The Maryland Fishery Resources Office (MFRO), in cooperation with West Virginia University, is working to determine the timing and cues for out-migrating adult American eels in the Shenandoah River. This information will help guide hydropower facilities in their operations to have the least amount of impact on out-migrating adult eels.

A total of 150 adult silver American eels will be captured in the headwaters of the Shenandoah River and radio-tagged over the next two years. The migratory movements of the eels will be tracked to determine if and how adult eels pass downstream of three hydroelectric dams along the river.

Last updated: January 30, 2013
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