Silver and brown eel

Eel

Common name: European Eel
Scientific name: Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anguillidae
Order: Anguilliformes
Class: Actinopterygii
Irish name: Eascann
Irish angling record: 3.147 kg (1979, L. Droumenisa, Bantry)
Native species: Yes
Hybrids: None

Identifying features

Elongated body; dorsal, anal and tail-fin continuous; dorsal begins well behind pectorals; no pelvic fins; Mouth small, with longer lower jaw; Growing eels are greenish-olive on the back, yellowish on the sides and have a small eye; mature eels, when ready to migrate to the sea to spawn (and subsequently die), become dark on the back and silvery on the sides and the eye becomes much larger4.

Environment and Habitat

Inhabit lake bottom; live in freshwater and breed in the ocean (catadromous)1; believed to breed in the Sargasso Sea; the juvenile glass eel stage travels across the Atlantic to Europe; transform to elver stage in coastal waters; enter rivers to grow and feed as yellow eel; as maturation begins they descend to the marine environment again2.

European distribution

In the Atlantic Ocean: Atlantic coast from Scandinavia to Morocco and rivers of North Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean seas. 75°N - 8°N, 82°W - 45°E; found in rivers and lakes throughout Ireland.

Economic value in Ireland

High commercial value.

Red list status

Critically endangered.

Irish legislation status

Bye-laws prohibit commercial fishing and angling for eel, or possessing or selling eel caught in a Fishery District in the State until June 2012 when status will be reviewed.

EU legislation status

Recruitment of glass eels is 5% of the pre-1980’s levels 7; Eel Management Plan prepared by each Member States for implementation by 1 July 2009 (Council Regulation 1100 / 2007).