Challenges for Diadromous Fishes in a Dynamic Global Environment

Natural Heritage, Anthropogenic Impacts, and Biopolitical Issues Related to the Status and Sustainable Management of American Eel: A Retrospective Analysis and Management Perspective at the Population Level

Rob MacGregor, John M. Casselman, William A. Allen, Tim Haxton, John M. Dettmers, Alastair Mathers, Steve LaPan, Thomas C. Pratt, Peter Thompson, Max Stanfield, Lucian Marcogliese, and Jean-Denis Dutil

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874080.ch45

Abstract.—We examine historical, archaeological, and current patterns in American eel Anguilla rostrata use, abundance, and distribution to improve understanding of current population- level status. Our research indicates that distribution and abundance has changed significantly in response to the cumulative impacts of fishing, turbine mortality, and major loss of freshwater habitat. The 1950–1970 peaks in dam construction and turbine mortalities, together with the unprecedented North American harvests in the 1970s, have lead to a perilous synergy of effects at the population level. Based on our findings, we call for coordinated conservation and management actions for American eel across North America. Preservation of life cycle diversity and coordinated conservation actions are required across the range to ensure continued and improved societal benefits, protect the legacy of cultural and natural heritage values, restore ecological services, and reinstate the benefits to biodiversity provided by this unique and important species. Finally, we describe key elements and recent progress in recovery planning.