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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 11 American Eels SSR 2012

Marine Fisheries

American Eel

American Eel - 2012

Stock Status – Depleted – From the 2012 benchmark assessment the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) finds that the stock status for American eel is depleted. A determination of overfishing could not be made at this time but the assessment indicated stock is at or near historical lows.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2002– 2011 – 75,253 lbs./$155,110

2011 Commercial Landings and Value – 59,225 lbs./$118,450

Average Recreational Landings – Not available

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – American eel is included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to ASMFC FMP compliance requirements. The ASMFC initially approved a FMP in 1999. The approved February 2006 Addendum 1 required states to establish a mandatory trip– level catch and effort monitoring program, including the documentation of the amount of gear fished and soak time. Addendum II, approved in October 2008, maintained status quo on state management measures and placed increased emphasis on improving the upstream and downstream passage of American eel. The ASMFC is considering new management measures in 2012 because current levels of fishing effort may still be too high given the additional stressors affecting the stock such as habitat loss, passage mortality, and disease.
 
Research and Data Needs – There is the need to acquire a solid understanding of the species distribution and abundance, commercial and recreational harvest, and a reliable stock assessment method. However, additional funding and personnel are required before these research needs can be adequately met.

Current Regulations – Commercial: 6– inches total length (TL) minimum size limit; mesh size restrictions on eel pots; bait limit of 50 eels/day; seasonal closures. Recreational: 6– inches TL minimum size limit/50 eels/person/day;

Harvest Season – Year round

Size and Age at Maturity – Males: 12 inches TL/4 – 8 years; Females: 18 inches TL/7 – 12 years

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 43 years

Juvenile Abundance Index 2004– 2008 –17.2, 2010 – N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries sampling eliminated due to budget cuts in 2009. NOAA bridge net survey data may be used to develop a new North Carolina juvenile abundance index for American eel but there may not be sufficient federal resources to carry out sample processing.

Habits and Habitats – The American eel is a catadromous species requiring multiple habitats including: ocean, estuaries, fresh water streams, rivers and lakes. This catadromous life cycle requires a migration back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn, while spending the majority of its life in brackish and freshwater. Larvae develop at sea and change from glass eels into elvers in nearshore ocean waters and estuaries. Elvers either remain in the estuary or migrate upstream. At approximately two years of age individuals are classified as the yellow eel stage and resemble the adult form. This stage lasts from approximately five to 20 years. Yellow eels also inhabit estuaries and fresh water tributaries where they feed on invertebrates and smaller fish. They prefer areas with soft bottom and vegetation. The mature silver eel life stage occurs at the time of downstream migration, leaving the estuary for the open ocean to spawn then die. Seaward migration occurs in late summer and fall.

For more information, email Garry Wright at Garry.Wright@ncdenr.gov or call 800-338-7804 or 252-948-3864.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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