The observations are a result of a project by the SRS Coldwater Streams and Trout Habitat unit in Blacksburg, VA, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests to learn more about the American eel in its freshwater habitat.
The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is found over a very large geographic range that extends from Greenland to South America. Though scattered so widely, American eels spawn in only one location--the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. After hatching, eel larvae drift for months on ocean currents, finally making their way to coastal areas. Now known as glass eels, they move into freshwater estuaries where they develop
into the elvers that migrate up streams and rivers to transform first into yellow eels, then into the mature silver eels that migrate back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die. Because it actually spends most of its lifespan in streams, the American eel is considered a freshwater fish.
Since the mid-1970s, numbers of American eels have been declining in both Canada and the U.S., prompting concern over the status of this species. Although eels have historically occupied all of the Atlantic watersheds, little is known about their seasonal behavior or distribution patterns in headwater mountain streams. Barriers to headwater habitats have been identified as a possible factor in eel decline.
This past summer, SRS researchers and their collaborators began assessing the abundance, habitat use, growth, and activity of American eels in the headwater tributaries of the James and Potomac rivers in Virginia, using radiotelemetry to track the daily and seasonal movements of
Contact: Andrew Dolloff
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service