Assessment of local abundance, demographics, health and exploitation of Chesapeake Bay American eel
Fenske, Kari Hammarsten
Wilberg, Michael J
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The Chesapeake Bay supports the largest U.S. harvest of American eel <italic>Anguilla rostrata</italic>, yet little is known about the underlying production rates sustaining harvests. Demographic attributes were compared between six sub-estuaries and with an unexploited population in the Hudson River. A mark-recapture experiment in the Potomac River yielded growth, abundance, and production estimates. Sub-estuaries characterized by lower salinity had a lower proportion of females, and American eels were older, slower growing and showed increased parasitism. Female American eels were larger, older, and had higher growth rates than other gender types. Local abundances were 10-fold higher in the Potomac River estuary in comparison to the Hudson River, but growth rates were similar. Mortality rates were twice as high as those in the Hudson River estuary. The production model indicated American eel recruitment and biomass decreased substantially during the past 20 years.