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Thank you…Eels?

Jan 28, 2019 | Healthy Habitats, Hudson River, New York, Reserves

 Photos courtesy Hudson River Reserve, New York

The American Eel might not be at the top of everyone’s list of charasmatic estuary critters, but on New York’s Hudson River, these eels are local celebrities.

Hatched in the warm waters of the Atlantic’s Sargasso Sea, tiny eel larvae go on an epic journey that begins with a ride on the Gulf Stream and ends in estuaries like the Hudson River. Along the way, they undergo a remarkable transformation. They enter the estuary as small, see-through “glass eels,” and as they migrate up river, they gain the familiar brownish-green color and grow up to four feet long. In the process, they inhabit virtually every aquatic habitat—from mountain streams and farm ponds to city creeks.


All of this might not have been enough to make American eels so popular, were it not for one problem—dams and other barriers have placed ecological pressures on these fish and drastically reduced their numbers. In an effort to turn the tide on this challenge, our Hudson River Reserve worked with partners to establish the Amercian Eel Citizen Science Project,  a monitoring initiative that has engaged hundreds of volunteers to count half a million eels since 2008. Participants have even encouraged the testing of new technologies like the “eelevator” to help young eels get over barriers and continue their journey upriver.

For the staff at our Hudson River Reserve, the eel is a symbol of the strong connections between local communities and their river. The spring arrival of young eels tells Reserve staff that it’s time for more than 750 citizen scientists to start checking specialized eel nets. It’s also time for the Reserve to launch education programs that teach more than 8,000 students and people about the Hudson River Estuary. The sight of students and volunteers enjoying hands-on interactions with the eels is not only a symbol of those connections, it’s an indicator that the estuary is healthy enough to have diverse fish populations that support healthy ecosystems and tourism in New York each year.

Thank you, American Eels! Your presence in the Hudson River inspires us to work harder to build connections between communities and the estuaries they depend on to thrive.

Have you had an encounter with an eel or another critter at one of our Reserves? We’d love to hear about it! Share your Reserve story. 

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What We Work ForHealthy HabitatsThank you…Eels?