Title: The Sawkill Eel Project: Eel restoration in a tributary to the Hudson River
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 03/01/2006
End Date: 02/28/2007
Congressional District: 22
Focus Categories: Conservation, Management and Planning
Keywords: eel habitat, dams, tributaries, migration, eel ladders
Principal Investigators: O'Reilly, Catherine; Schmidt, Robert
Federal Funds: $ 14,471
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 18,844
Abstract: Populations of American eels have been declining for several reasons, including loss of habitat (Haro et al. 2000). American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is a catadromous fish that spawns in the Sargasso Sea (central Atlantic Ocean). After hatching, young eels migrate thousands of miles to coastal estuaries and continue their migrations upstream into tributaries and inland ponds and lakes where they grow and mature for up to ten years before returning to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die. Population declines have been so extensive that the American eel has been considered for listing as threatened or endangered. In the Hudson River estuary, access to upstream habitat is severely restricted by numerous small dams that act as barriers to many miles of viable habitat upstream. These dams typically limit eel habitat to the lower reaches of the tributaries, leading to high densities, decreased growth rates, and lower recruitment.
Eel ladders could provide passageways over these barriers and effectively increase the amount of available habitat. Access to this upstream habitat could increase eel growth rates, fecundity, and eel recruitment. Currently, there are no migratory fish passage devices on dams in tributaries to the Hudson River Estuary. Given the large number of dams, and their potential collective impact on eel populations, there may be great potential for eel habitat restoration by providing passage over these historic dams.
Progress/Completion Report, PDF