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European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration behaviour in a highly regulated shipping canal

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Abstract
Over the last 40 years, Anguilla species in the northern hemisphere have shown a strong decline in recruitment. Due to a 98% recruitment decline, the European eel is now classified as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List. To aid conservation and recovery of European eel populations, the European Union recently adopted a Council Regulation which imposes a management system that ensures 40% escapement of the spawning stock biomass, defined as the best estimate of the theoretical escapement rate if the stock were completely free of anthropogenic influences. Various causes likely contribute to the eel decline (e.g. pollution, human-introduced parasites, changes in ocean climate, habitat deterioration…), but habitat fragmentation by migration barriers that prevent the movement of silver eels between freshwater and the sea is probably one of the most important bottlenecks. During the last decades, a substantial number of canals has been developed, creating new habitat for eels. However, eel migration and potential obstacles in these systems are still underexplored. In this study, we tracked 131 European eels (Anguilla anguilla L.) from October 2014 till March 2017 in the Belgian Albert Canal with acoustic telemetry. The 130-km long canal is on average 86 m wide, 5 m deep and functions as a shipping route between the rivers Schelde and Meuse. The canal has a highly regulated water flow and six shipping locks to overcome the 56-m fall, which may have a negative impact on silver eel escapement. Indeed, we found significant delays (i.e. periods with a significantly prolonged residence time) and a ca 50% lower swimming speed near shipping locks compared to riverine conditions. Depending on nothing but their accumulated fat for migration to their spawning grounds, delays can seriously impact eels by wasting precious energy resources needed for a successful trans-Atlantic migration.
Keywords
Anguilla, telemetry, migration, canal, shipping, migration barriers

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Chicago
Verhelst, Pieterjan, Raf Baeyens, David Buysse, Jan Reubens, Peter Goethals, Ine Pauwels, Jenna Vergeynst, et al. 2017. “European Silver Eel (Anguilla Anguilla L.) Migration Behaviour in a Highly Regulated Shipping Canal.” In Fish Telemetry, 4th International Conference, Abstracts.
APA
Verhelst, Pieterjan, Baeyens, R., Buysse, D., Reubens, J., Goethals, P., Pauwels, I., Vergeynst, J., et al. (2017). European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration behaviour in a highly regulated shipping canal. Fish Telemetry, 4th International conference, Abstracts. Presented at the 4th International conference on Fish Telemetry.
Vancouver
1.
Verhelst P, Baeyens R, Buysse D, Reubens J, Goethals P, Pauwels I, et al. European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration behaviour in a highly regulated shipping canal. Fish Telemetry, 4th International conference, Abstracts. 2017.
MLA
Verhelst, Pieterjan, Raf Baeyens, David Buysse, et al. “European Silver Eel (Anguilla Anguilla L.) Migration Behaviour in a Highly Regulated Shipping Canal.” Fish Telemetry, 4th International Conference, Abstracts. 2017. Print.
@inproceedings{8527909,
  abstract     = {Over the last 40 years, Anguilla species in the northern hemisphere have shown a strong decline in recruitment. Due to a 98% recruitment decline, the European eel is now classified as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List. To aid conservation and recovery of European eel populations, the European Union recently adopted a Council Regulation which imposes a management system that ensures 40% escapement of the spawning stock biomass, defined as the best estimate of the theoretical escapement rate if the stock were completely free of anthropogenic influences. Various causes likely contribute to the eel decline (e.g. pollution, human-introduced parasites, changes in ocean climate, habitat deterioration…), but habitat fragmentation by migration barriers that prevent the movement of silver eels between freshwater and the sea is probably one of the most important bottlenecks. During the last decades, a substantial number of canals has been developed, creating new habitat for eels. However, eel migration and potential obstacles in these systems are still underexplored. In this study, we tracked 131 European eels (Anguilla anguilla L.) from October 2014 till March 2017 in the Belgian Albert Canal with acoustic telemetry. The 130-km long canal is on average 86 m wide, 5 m deep and functions as a shipping route between the rivers Schelde and Meuse. The canal has a highly regulated water flow and six shipping locks to overcome the 56-m fall, which may have a negative impact on silver eel escapement. Indeed, we found significant delays (i.e. periods with a significantly prolonged residence time) and a ca 50% lower swimming speed near shipping locks compared to riverine conditions. Depending on nothing but their accumulated fat for migration to their spawning grounds, delays can seriously impact eels by wasting precious energy resources needed for a successful trans-Atlantic migration.},
  author       = {Verhelst, Pieterjan and Baeyens, Raf and Buysse, David and Reubens, Jan and Goethals, Peter and Pauwels, Ine and Vergeynst, Jenna and Ovidio, Michaël and Benitez, Jean-Phillippe and Coeck, Johan and Mouton, Ans},
  booktitle    = {Fish Telemetry, 4th International conference, Abstracts},
  keywords     = {Anguilla,telemetry,migration,canal,shipping,migration barriers},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Cairns, QLD, Australia},
  title        = {European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration behaviour in a highly regulated shipping canal},
  year         = {2017},
}