American Eel in Texas – what we do, don’t, and need to, know


Hendrickson, Dean A., Adam E. Cohen, Ben Labay, Gary P. Garrett, Melissa Casarez, and F. Douglas Martin. 2016. “American Eel in Texas – what we do, don’t, and need to, know.” Kerrville, Texas, USA.


American Eel is undoubtedly one of the most studied freshwater fishes of North America. Many recent discoveries have added new insights that re-write important aspects of the “text book” knowledge of the species’ complex life history in ways that could have significant impacts on management. Despite all of this new information, debate about the species’ conservation status continues, and new threats, such as continued habitat loss and major clandestine fisheries driven by extremely high value in the global market, have further complicated management. Though USFWS recently decided that the species does not merit listing as “Endangered,” in 2012 Canada changed that country’s assessment of the species’ status from “Special Concern” (since 2006) to “Threatened” and IUCN upped its classification in 2013 to “Endangered.” Ontario has considered it “Endangered” since 2007. All U.S. Atlantic states vowed to work together to produce, in 1999, the American Eel Benchmark Stock Assessment, which mandated each state conduct standardized monitoring of recruitment and later, mandatory catch and effort monitoring. Given all that activity and data generation, it is remarkable that still so little is known about the populations of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and its tributary rivers that making any management decisions in that large, neglected part of the species’ range is virtually impossible. The Fishes of Texas Project team has been collating and improving the limited and scattered data on occurrences of the species in the region and concludes it important to promote a broad scale (Gulf of Mexico) collaborative community effort to acquire and share data and carefully curated specimens and, hopefully, develop a GOM-wide collaborative research and management plan like that implemented by Atlantic states. Here we’ll review the literature and state of knowledge about the species in Texas and GOM, and suggest ways to begin work toward such an effort.