Implications of facultative catadromy inAnguilla anguilla: does individual migratory behaviour influence eel spawner quality?

Marohn, Lasse GND; Jakob, Eva; Hanel, Reinhold GND

European eel (Anguilla anguilla) recruitment is declining dramatically since the 1980s. Causes for this decline are explained by a combination of environmental changes basically affecting oceanic larval stages and a variety of anthropogenic impacts during the continental phase. Today, evidence is growing that poor silver eel quality has a major impact on reproductive success, implying that habitat quality plays a key role in stock decline. Since eels are frequently moving through a variety of different habitats during their life cycle, a better understanding of the implications of individual diadromous behaviour and habitat choice on spawner quality are crucial for management considerations for a stock recovery. The present study tested whether individual migratory behaviour and habitat choice of European eels affect spawner quality. Therefore, the migratory behaviour of 287 European eels from marine, brackish and freshwater stations in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and from Northern German inland waters was examined by otolith strontium/calcium analysis. All individuals were classified either as freshwater residents, coastal residents, downstream shifters, upstream shifters or interhabitat shifters. As indicators for eel quality, muscle fat content, infection with the introduced swimbladder nematode Anguillicoloides crassus and body length at onset of spawning migration were assessed. Results indicate that individuals that exclusively inhabited freshwaters had significantly lowermuscle fat contents and were more seriously infected with A. crassus than eels that never entered freshwaters. Since high fat contents are considered as prerequisites for a successful transoceanic spawning migration and high A. crassus loads have a negative impact on condition, this study outlines the importance of brackish waters as eel habitats in temperate latitudes. Furthermore, it questions the net benefit of stocking programs for the European eel population, since they include the translocation of eels from coastal waters into freshwaters.

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Marohn, Lasse / Jakob, Eva / Hanel, Reinhold: Implications of facultative catadromy inAnguilla anguilla: does individual migratory behaviour influence eel spawner quality?. 2013.

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