Our eel team at Canadian Wildlife Federation, along with various collaborators, including Hydro-Quebec, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife, Arnprior District Fish and Game Club and the Algonquins of Ontario teamed up to tag over 400 juvenile American eels on Wednesday, July 16th at Voyageur Provincial Park, east of Hawksbury, Ontario.

This was the first occasion in which eels were transferred from the eel ladder at the Beauharnois dam  in Quebec to the Ottawa River.  This transfer allows the eels to bypass the barrier of the Carillon dam, which is a large barrier to upstream migration and also helps in efforts to repopulate the Ottawa River. Seamlessly, individuals from all organizations worked together to measure and weight over 400 juvenile eels – 420 to be exact!

Carillon dam, which is located east of Hawksbury.
Carillon dam, which is located east of Hawksbury.

Additionally, all eels were inserted with a small tag, a PIT tag, which gives each individual a unique identification code which when recaptured, researchers will know that the individual was previously caught. Overall, it was a great event which is all thanks to the collaboration and initiative of all these great groups! Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ve included some great shots that our team collected yesterday – have a look!

Team members from Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Arnprior District Fish and Game Club and Canadian Wildlife Federation getting the tagging station ready with all the necessary equipment.


The eels were held in a large holding tanks prior to be measured and tagged.


What a cutie! Check out this video of the eels swimming throughout our hands – they were very curious!


Hundreds of eels patiently waiting to be measured and then returned to the Ottawa River.


Individuals were removed from their holding tanks and placed into a smaller container with anesthetic to immobilize them for the measurements and tagging. After tagging was completed, they were placed into fresh water to recuperate, which generally took no longer than 5 minutes.


Many hands were needed to ensure that eels were measured and all data was recorded properly. Here, Lauren Stoot (far right) records measure data while Breanna Hallihan (middle) scans PIT tags and hands them to Jeremy from the MNR who loads the PIT tag injector with the tag and passes it to Kirby Punt (MNR biologist) to tags the eel.


Length and weight measurements were recorded along with PIT numbers.


Kirby Punt, Pembroke District MNR Biologist, tags an eel with a PIT tag.


Breanna Hallihan, CWF Research Biologist, PIT tags her first eel while MNR Biologist, Kirby Punt looks on.


PIT tags are injected using a small needle just below the surface of the skin. Here Dr. Jon Midwood, from the Cooke Lab at Carleton University, PIT tags an eel.


Once all the eels were PIT tagged and had recovered, they were transported by boat into the middle of the Ottawa River for release.
The OMNR Stewardship Rangers were on hand to help with the release of the tagged American eels. Check out this video of the eel release!

We were also featured in the Montreal Gazette on Thursday, July 17th – have a look a the great article and video that they put together!