European eels are becoming an increasingly endangered species as stock steeply decline. Wild stocks are currently half of what they were a few years ago. The European research project Eeliad aims to resolve some of the mysteries by analysing the eel’s biology and thus using this information to help conserve European eel stocks.
Eeliad tries to figure out more information on European eels during their marine migration as very little is known about the life and spawning success of silver eels once they escape to the sea. Researchers undertake a large-scale field to determine migration routes and behaviour of silver eels and in addition, to determine ecological factors that influence the number and quality of silver eels. Scientific fishing is the method researchers are working with in order to tag right sized specimens of eels. The animals are measured and weighed and their small bones are analysed according to the age at which eels leave European rivers. The coordinator of Eeliad project, David Righton, found out that eels move from cooler water during the day to warmer water during the night. Furthermore, eels choose to swim in darker areas and make sharper vertical movements. These newly identified migration patterns will surely lead point scientists towards different outcomes about eels’ parasites and diseases.
In the meantime biologists study tags from other research projects that provide further information on Eel’s behaviour. Tags from Ireland, Spain and Sweden have already confirmed that eels can travel up to 45 km per day and swim as deep as 1200 metres.
The knowledge gained from the Eeliad projects will be of direct use to the conservation of eel stocks by improving and changing the way that eel fisheries and habitats are managed across Europe. It will additionally ensure that enough silver eels migrate to their spawning grounds to reproduce and sustain their species.