American Eel Migration from Inland Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico

Left: Dr. Jeff Quinn with an American Eel
Right: Acoustic Transmitter Implantation Surgery

Project Overview

A team led by Dr. Jeffrey Quinn with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has developed a project using acoustic telemetry to determine migration patterns of American Eels. Adult American Eels migrate from inland rivers to the ocean to reproduce, ending their life cycle. Once the eggs hatch, the young eels make the journey back to the inland rivers.

Eels that originate in rivers located in Arkansas and Louisiana migrate to the Gulf of Mexico to reproduce. This migration pattern of American Eels is understudied. The team is partnering with researchers in the FACT Network and iTag Network to learn about tracking migratory fish and apply that information to their research on American Eels.

The team has implanted over 120 eels with acoustic transmitters that send out a signal. This signal is recorded when a tagged animal passes by any of the 25 receivers in the river system. The main goal is to assess potential impacts of dams on survival of American Eels in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Why this Matters

The American Eel is listed as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” in Arkansas because of declining populations. The species was petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act on two occasions.

Research is needed to inform management decisions that are compatible with successful American Eel migration from inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico and Sargasso Sea (area in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Gulf Stream). The team is interested in how eel migrations may be affected by water flows from hydropower dams. To prevent eel mortality and allow eels to safely pass the dams when reservoir levels are low, strategies need to be developed for proposed hydropower facilities.

Lead Organizations


Supported by

Project Status

  • Ongoing
    • FACT Project Codes
      • AMEELT (tags)
      • AMEELA (array)


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