The American Eel population has declined by more than 99 per cent in Ontario.
That’s not a typo — it’s a fact. American Eels were once one of the most common fish in Ontario and supported important commercial and indigenous fisheries. Today, they are critically Endangered.
Biologists have been warning us about the declining eel population since the early 1990s. Despite the warnings, American Eel were not listed as Endangered in Ontario until 2008. Unfortunately, this listing has done little to help the eels because the government has still not finalized their action plan. This action plan, called a Government Response Statement, outlines what steps the government of Ontario plans to take to ensure the protection and recovery of the species.
The good news is that the government has issued a draft of their response statement. The bad news is that the draft statement still does not set out immediate and clear requirements for the recovery of the species in Ontario, and instead proposes another three years of planning. We cannot wait that long. We need people like you to tell the Government of Ontario that they care about eels, and that they want clearer requirements for immediate action in the final response statement.
It’s time to speak up! The comment period for the Government Response Statement is only open until January 11th, 2018. Click here to leave a comment before it is too late. You can write your own comment or copy and paste the text below:
American Eel are an important part of Ontario’s ecosystems. Clearly an immediate action is needed to ensure that they are not lost from Ontario. The government response statement outlines a good path forward for research and planning, but it fails to call for sufficient short-term actions. The response statement should be revised as follows:
- Revise Action 7 to require specific and immediate reductions in the mortality of adult eels as they migrate through hydropower facilities.
- Revise Action 8 to require immediate provision of upstream passage (e.g., eel ladders) for juvenile eels at barriers in the lower reaches of rivers in Ontario, including the Carillon Generating Facility at the base of the Ottawa River.
- Under Action 9, commit to reviewing hydropower mitigation plans for American Eel, and requiring revisions or revoking exemptions when hydropower producers fail to take reasonable steps to reduce the adverse effects of hydropower facilities on the species.
Why are American Eels Endangered?
The main threat facing American Eels in Ontario are hydropower dams. Dams block juveniles from migrating upstream. The turbines kill adults when they try to return to the sea to spawn at the end of their lives. Getting eels around hydro dams is not easy, but a variety of solutions exist.
As we wait for the government to put a plan in action, less than 100 eels returned to Lake Ontario via the Saunders ladder near Cornwall in 2017. This is a 10,000-fold decrease from the early 1980s! And it is only one example.