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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 373:71-80 (2008)  -  DOI:

Impact of climate on eel populations of the Northern Hemisphere

Sylvain Bonhommeau1,*, Emmanuel Chassot2, Benjamin Planque3, Etienne Rivot1, Anthony H. Knap4, Olivier Le Pape1

1Agrocampus-Ouest, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Center, CS 84 215, 35 042 Rennes Cedex, France
2IRD - Unité de Service 007 – OSIRIS Observatoires et Systèmes d’Information des Pêches Tropicales Centre de Recherche Halieutique, Avenue Jean Monnet, BP 171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
3Institute of Marine Research – Tromsø, Postboks 6404, 9294 Tromsø, Norway
4Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, 17 Biological Lane, Ferry Reach, GE01, Bermuda

ABSTRACT: 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.

KEY WORDS: Anguilla · Primary production · Climate · Regime shift · Bottom-up

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Cite this article as: Bonhommeau S, Chassot E, Planque B, Rivot E, Knap AH, Le Pape O (2008) Impact of climate on eel populations of the Northern Hemisphere. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 373:71-80.

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