MEPS 233:207-215 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps233207

First use of archival transmitters to track migrating freshwater eels Anguilla dieffenbachii at sea

Donald Jellyman1,*, Katsumi Tsukamoto2

1National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., PO Box 8602, Christchurch, New Zealand
2Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Minamidai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan

ABSTRACT: The spawning grounds of the New Zealand longfinned eel Anguilla dieffenbachii are unknown, but thought to be in the tropical region of the south Pacific Ocean. To determine whether pop-up tags could be used to provide information on the swimming speed and direction of migrating eels at sea, 4 female eels (7600 to 11400 g) were equipped with archival pop-up tags that were pre-programmed to surface after either 2 or 3 mo. All 4 tags ascended successfully at straight-line distances ranging from 368 to 1000 km offshore of the east coast of South Island, New Zealand. These estimated migration pathways showed that the eels moved substantial distances along inshore areas before moving offshore and eastward. There was no evidence of the expected northeast movement to tropical waters. Average swimming speed of all eels ranged from 15.1 to 31.3 km d-1, but there was limited evidence of diel vertical movement within the water column. The results indicated that pop-up tags have considerable potential in tracking the marine migrations of the larger species of Anguilla.

KEY WORDS: Freshwater eel · Anguilla dieffenbachii · Pop-up tags · Satellite · Offshore movement

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