Oceanic changes in the Sargasso Sea and declines in recruitment of the European eel

Friedland, Kevin D.; Miller, Michael J.; Knights, Brian
April 2007
ICES Journal of Marine Science / Journal du Conseil;Apr2007, Vol. 64 Issue 3, p519
Academic Journal
Friedland, K. D., Miller, M. J., and Knights, B. 2007. Oceanic changes in the Sargasso Sea and declines in recruitment of the European eel. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 519–530. Anguillid eel recruitment in the North Atlantic has declined in recent decades, raising concerns that climatic changes in the Sargasso Sea may be influencing oceanic reproduction and larval survival. There is a significant negative correlation between the North Atlantic Oscillation and long-term variations in catches of glass eel stages of the European eel Anguilla anguilla recorded by the fishery independent Den Oever recruitment index (DOI) in the Netherlands, lagged by one year. Ocean-atmospheric changes in the Sargasso Sea may affect the location of spawning areas by silver eels and the survival of leptocephali during the key period when they are transported towards the Gulf Stream. A northward shift in a key isotherm (22.5°C), defining the northern boundary of the spawning area, a declining trend in winds and transport conditions in larval transport areas, and a shallowing of the mixed layer depth could affect primary productivity in areas where leptocephali feed. The relationships between these ocean parameters and the DOI suggest that these changing ocean conditions could be contributing to declining recruitment of the European eel and probably also of the American eel (A. rostrata), but anthropogenic factors during their continental life stage must also be considered.


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