American Eel

Anguilla rostrata

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) belongs to the family Anguillidae. It is also known as the Atlantic eel, Common eel, Silver eel, Yellow eel, Bronze eel and Easgann, among other names. In Mi'kmaq, it is known as kat, the Algonquins call it pimizi, Ojibwe call it bimizi and the Seneca call it goda:noh. It has the following characteristics:

  • A slender, long body with scales.
  • A single fin extends from its back around the tail to its belly.
  • Its mouth has thick lips and its lower jaw is slightly longer than the upper jaw.
  • It has several rows of small teeth on the jaws and roof of the mouth.
  • Its larvae are shaped like a willow leaf.
  • Juvenile (yellow eels) colouration varies from yellow to green or olive-brown on the belly and dark on the back.
  • Adults (silver eels) are grey with a white or cream-coloured belly.
  • Adult females may reach up to 1 metre in length; males are smaller at less than 0.4 metre.

Habitat

The American eel can be found on the western side of the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea to Greenland and Iceland, including the Sargasso Sea, where they spawn. In Canada, it is found in all fresh water, estuaries and coastal marine waters that are accessible to the Atlantic Ocean, from Niagara Falls in the Great Lakes up to the mid- Labrador coast. American eel can be considered declining in some locations and be stable elsewhere.

Threats

The American eel is subject to the following threats:

  • Habitat alteration
  • Dams and turbines
  • Fishery harvest
  • Changes to ocean conditions related to climate change
  • Contaminants
  • Parasites

The American eel plays an important role in Canada's aquatic biodiversity. It has the greatest range of any fish species in North America and has supported major commercial, recreational, and Aboriginal fisheries.

Further Information

In Eastern Canada, the commercial eel fisheries are managed federally by three administrative regions of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador, Maritimes and Gulf) and provincially by Quebec and Ontario, in their respective jurisdictions. The American Eel was identified in 2008 as "endangered" under Ontario's Endangered Species Act  which prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, possessing, buying, selling, trading, leasing or transporting of this species.

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources has developed a provincial recovery strategy for the species.

Visit the  Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry.

American Eel

American Eel

Anguilla rostrata - David Cairns, DFO

Scientific name: Anguilla rostrata
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (May 2012)
Regions: Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario

American Eel Distribution as described in the following paragraphs
This map indicates the American eel’s migration routes from the Sargasso Sea, the spawning area, to their distribution in fresh water on the eastern coast of North America. The photo inset features the migration of American eel within the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Source: Parks Canada
American Eel (© J.R. Tomelleri)

Anguilla rostrata - © J.R. Tomelleri

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