Impact of climate on eel populations of the Northern Hemisphere
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Glass eel abundances are declining worldwide. This has mostly been attributed to direct impacts of human activities such as overfishing or habitat loss and degradation, whilst the potential influence of changes in oceanic conditions has received less attention. Eel are characterized by a complex and still enigmatic life cycle that includes a trans-oceanic spawning and larval migration. The apparent synchrony in the decline of eel populations worldwide suggests that the oceanic mechanisms involved are similar for all populations. We analyse the relationships between oceanic conditions in eel spawning areas and glass eel recruitment success of the 3 most commercially important species of the genus Anguilla: A. anguilla, A. rostrata, and A. japonica. We provide evidence that the survival of eel larvae is strongly correlated with food availability during their early life stages. Over the last 4 decades, changes in the marine production related to global warming may have led to the decline of European, American and Japanese eel populations. In the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the shifts in the temperature regime detected in the late 1970s were followed by shifts in the recruitment regime of glass eel for the 3 species. The decrease in primary production through climate-driven processes has therefore affected the recruitment of eel populations.