WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that a petition to list the American eel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act contains sufficient information to warrant a full year-long review of the species.
According to the petition, filed by the Council for Endangered Species Act Reliability, the eel is threatened by loss of habitat caused by global warming and dams that block the eels from returning to their freshwater habitat after spawning in the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition, the petition says that the eels are over harvested both as juveniles – limiting the numbers that reach sexual maturity – and as adults, reducing the ability of the breeding population to sustain itself.
The smooth, snake-like fish is catadromous – living most of its life in fresh water but spawning in salt water. The species, which evolved 52 million years ago, is believed to occupy the broadest range of habitats of any fish.
The agency requests public comment on the biology, range, and population trends of the American eel.