Proceedings of a workshop on American Eel passage technologies




Recent concerns regarding a decline in recruitment of American eels (Anguilla rostrata) have prompted efforts to restore this species to historic habitats by providing passage for both upstream migrant juveniles and downstream migrant adults at riverine barriers, including low-head and hydroelectric dams (Castonguay et al. 1994, Haro et al. 2000). These efforts include development of management plans and stock assessment reviews in both the US and Canada (COSEWIC 2006, Canadian Eel Working Group 2009, DFO 2010, MacGregor et al. 2010, ASMFC 2000, ASMFC 2006, ASMFC 2008, Williams and Threader 2007), which target improvement of upstream and downstream passage for eels, as well as identification and prioritization of research needs for development of new and more effective passage technologies for American eels.

Traditional upstream fish passage structures, such as fishways and fish lifts, are often ineffective passing juvenile eels, and specialized passage structures for this species are needed. Although designs for such passage structures are available and diverse (Knights and White 1998, Porcher 2002, FAO/DVWK 2002, Solomon and Beach 2004a,b, Environment Agency UK 2011), many biologists, managers, and engineers are unfamiliar with eel pass design and operation, or unaware of the technical options available for upstream eel passage, Better coordination is needed to account for eel passage requirements during restoration efforts for other diadromous fish species. Also, appropriately siting eel passes at hydropower projects is critical, and siting can be difficult and complex due to physical restrictions in access to points of natural concentrations of eels, dynamic hydraulics of tailrace areas, and presence of significant competing flows from turbine outfalls or spill. As a result, some constructed eel passes are sited poorly and may pass only a fraction of the number of eels attempting to pass the barrier. When sited and constructed appropriately, however, eel passes can effectively pass thousands of individuals in a season (Appendix D).

technologies for preventing impingement and entrainment mortality and injury of downstream migrant eels at hydropower projects are not well developed. Traditional downstream fish passage mitigative techniques originally developed for salmonids and other species are frequently ineffective passing eels (Richkus and Dixon 2003, EPRI 2001, Bruijs and Durif 2009). Large hydropower projects, with high project flows or intake openings that cannot be fitted with racks or screens with openings small enough to exclude eels, pose significant passage problems for this species, and turbine impingement and entrainment mortality of eels can be as high as 100%. Spill mortality and injury may also be significant for eels, given their tendency to move during high flow events when projects typically spill large amounts of flow. Delays in migration of eels that have difficulty locating and utilizing bypass entrances can also be significant. Therefore, downstream passage technologies are at a much more nebulous state of development than upstream passage technologies, and require further evaluation and improvement before rigorous design guidelines can be established.

There have been few studies conducted to evaluate effectiveness of current mitigative measures for both upstream and downstream passage of eels. Research is needed to determine eel migratory timing, behavior, and appropriate mitigation technologies for specific sites and eel life history stages. Both upstream and downstream eel passage structures can be difficult to evaluate in terms of performance, and examples of how evaluation and monitoring can be accomplished were reviewed at the workshop.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Organization Series
Title Proceedings of a workshop on American Eel passage technologies
Series number 90
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
Publisher location Gloucester, MA
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description iv, 32 p.