American Eel May (Someday) Get Federal Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently reported that the American eel, a fish found in freshwater systems in the eastern U.S., may be at risk of extinction, and thus warrants federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These eels live a complex multi-phased life - born in the Sargasso Sea region of the North Atlantic Ocean before spending years traveling to freshwater rivers and marine estuaries, where they may remain for 10–25 years before returning to the ocean to spawn, deposit their buoyant eggs, and perish. A number of threats such as climate change and invasive parasites are significantly diminishing subpopulations of American eels. It may take years for the FWS to get through its backlog of ESA listing petitions and make a determination on the eel. Whether American eels can survive the wait remains to be seen.