American eel, Anguilla rostrata, is a catadromous fish that spawns in the Sargasso Sea and migrates to coastal waters and freshwater systems ranging from Greenland down the Atlantic coast to South America and has been regarded as comprising a panmictic population. American eel is in decline across much of its range. Research and management is primarily conducted at local to regional scales, yielding inconsistent research results and management recommendations that may be inhibited by large-scale processes. We review the research on American eel ecology demonstrating that its variable life history and movement patterns can be explained based on: (1) latitudinal productivity gradients; (2) ideal free habitat selection; (3) conditional evolutionarily stable life history strategies; (4) size at arrival to the coast (correlated with distance from the spawning grounds); and, (5) temperature variance and annual degree-day effects on somatic growth. Using these ecological processes, we outline how local and large-scale effects on American eel dynamics can be integrated in a panmictic (or quasi-panmictic) modelling framework to enable defensible predictions of population responses to anthropogenic and oceanic phenomena. Due to its widespread distribution and existing knowledge gaps, the conservation and management of American eel will require international cooperation.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 12, 2009
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