Eels at the Edge: Science, Status, and Conservation Concerns

Growth and Habitat Residence History of Migrating Silver American Eels Transplanted to Taiwan

Wann-Nian Tzeng, Yu-San Han, and Brian M. Jessop


Abstract.—In Taiwan, there has been a shortage of local Japanese eel Anguilla japonica elvers for culture, so culturists have imported American eel Anguilla rostrata (Le Sueur) elvers from North America to meet their needs. From 1999 to 2001, six exotic adult American eels were found in the estuary of the Kaoping River of Taiwan that had escaped from aquaculture ponds as young eels and stayed in the river until silvering. This study compares growth performance and migratory behavior, using otolith strontium (Sr)/calcium (Ca) ratios of those six American eels with cohabitating Japanese eels and American eels in North America. Regardless of sex, mean age at maturity of the exotic American eels was greater and mean annual growth rate was less than that of Japanese eels in Taiwan and similar to that of American eels in the southern United States. Sr/Ca ratios at the otolith edge of the six exotic American eels, which recorded their salinity history, increased significantly. Furthermore, four of the six exotic American eels spent more than one year in the high-salinity estuary. Their extended residence in the estuary may be due to a delayed spawning migration resulting from a failure to orientate and migrate properly to their native spawning site.