Northeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America

American Eel May Warrant Protection Under the Endangered Species Act

For immediate release                                     News media: for further information, contact
September 28, 2011                                        Meagan Racey, 413-253-8558; 413-648-4386
                                                                     Martin Miller, 413-253-8615

American eel (Anguilla rostrata). Credit: USFWS
American Eel

The American eel may need federal protection as a threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today, following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Today’s decision, commonly known as a 90-day finding, is based on scientific information about the eel provided in a 2010 petition from the Council for Endangered Species Act Reliability and in the Service’s files.

The Service will begin an extensive status review for the American eel to determine if adding the species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is warranted. A previous status review was conducted in 2007, finding that federal protection under the ESA was not warranted. The 2010 petition includes some information that became available after the 2007 review.

The American eel, found in freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats from Greenland to South America, has been extirpated from portions of its historical freshwater habitat during the last 100 years, mostly resulting from dams built through the 1960s. Habitat loss and degradation, harvest, and turbine mortality have also contributed to some local population declines.

Ken Sprankle, Connecticut River Coordinator, measures eels from the Connecticut River. Credit: USFWS
Staff with Eel

The species’ unique life cycle, including its breeding phase in the Sargasso Sea, presents challenges to understanding and assessing biological and environmental processes that influence eels. New information indicates that changes in ocean conditions may be negatively impacting the eel’s reproduction rates.

The Service is particularly seeking the following types of new information not known at the time of the 2007 status review: species’ population structure (panmixia); range-wide analysis of impacts from the parasitic nematode Anguillicola crassus;statistically significant long-term glass eel recruitment declines; and the correlation of climate change and glass eel recruitment.

Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R5-ES-2011-0067].
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS-R5-ES-2011-0067]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before November 28, 2011. The Service will post all comments on This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

Learn more:

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.

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Last updated: December 21, 2011