Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DEC Celebrates 10th Year of Juvenile Eel Monitoring

More Than 550 Volunteer Citizen Scientists Track Hudson River Eels

All along the Hudson River Estuary, volunteers are donning waders and venturing into tributary streams to participate in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) research on migrating juvenile American eels (Anguilla rostrata), DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

"New York is home to significant habitat that is critical to the life-cycle of many migratory fish species," said Commissioner Seggos. "The American Eel Research project is an excellent way to connect students and the community with nature while gathering research that can be valuable for the future study of this species and its role in our ecosystem."

Now in its tenth year, the project was initiated by the Hudson River Estuary Program and Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve to gather data for multi-state management plans for eel conservation. Eel collection takes place at most sites daily from early March through mid-May.

Coastal states from Florida to Maine monitor the young-of-the-year migrations of American eels, using the protocols of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Each spring, more than 550 volunteers from nearly 40 schools and organizations monitor glass eels at a dozen Hudson River sites from New York Harbor to the Capital Region.

American eels have one of the most unusual life cycles of any fish. They are born in the Sargasso Sea north of Puerto Rico, and every spring they arrive in estuaries like the Hudson River as translucent, two-inch long "glass eels." As part of the research project, volunteers and students check a 10-foot cone-shaped net ("fyke net") specifically designed to catch this small species. Then, researchers count and release the glass eels back into the water and record environmental data on temperature and tides. Most of the eels are released above dams, waterfalls, and other barriers so that they have better access to habitat. Eels will live in freshwater streams and lakes for up to 30 years before returning to the sea to spawn.

Volunteers include a wide range of students, watershed groups, environmental professionals, and community residents trained in basic protocols to assure useful data is collected. The Poughkeepsie and Ossining high schools have participated in the project since 2008, collecting data at the Fall Kill and Furnace Brook. Over the 10 years, the downriver Furnace Brook site has recorded a fairly steady number of eels from year to year, while the mid-Hudson's Fall Kill has seen a rise in catches over time.

Additional sites have been added over the years, from Staten Island to Troy and classroom visits by DEC educators help bring the project alive to thousands of students. The program grew in part due to the fact that eels are a strangely charismatic species with an unusual life story, and partly because people are drawn to the connections between their neighborhoods and their waterways, from urban streams to rural creeks.

Photos, sampling schedules, and a list of partners for all sites are available. For more information on American Eel research, please visit DEC's website.

Interested press may arrange a site visit at any of the streams listed with Chris Bowser, Science Educator with the NYSDEC Hudson River Research Reserve and Estuary Program, at (845) 264-5041, pressoffice@dec.ny.gov.

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Lori Severino
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    518-402-8000
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to Hudson River region