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

The American Eel Fishery in Delaware: Recent Landings Trends and Characteristics of the Exploited Eel Population

John H. Clark


Abstract.—American eels Anguilla rostrata were fourth in landings and third in value in the Delaware commercial finfish fisheries from 1999 to 2002. Landings and effort dropped while catch per unit effort (CPUE) varied during the period. Bait eel landings decreased more than food eel landings. The number of licensed eelers in Delaware dropped from 121 in 1997 to 77 in 2002. American eels collected from the commercial fishery ranged in length from 216 to 838 mm (mean 427 ± 133 SD), in weight from 13.6 to 820 g (mean 205 ± 205 SD), and in age from 2 to 12 years (mean 5 ± 2 SD). The length–weight relationship was W = 0.00000065 × L3.18. Von Bertalanffy length-at-age parameters calculated from the sampled eels were L = 547, k = 0.43, and t0 = 0.38. Linearized catch curve analysis indicated an instantaneous disappearance rate of 0.59. The estimate of natural mortality (M) was 0.25, giving a fishing mortality (F) of 0.34. Yield-per-recruit analysis suggested that overfishing may be occurring in Delaware’s commercial American eel fishery.