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Sci Total Environ. 2003 Jul 1;310(1-3):237-44.

A review of the possible impacts of long-term oceanic and climate changes and fishing mortality on recruitment of anguillid eels of the Northern Hemisphere.

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University of Westminster, 115 New Cavendish Street, W1M 8JS, London, UK.


Possible causes of declines in recruitment of European, American and Japanese eels to continental waters are reviewed. Negative correlations between the Den Oever glass eel recruitment index (DOI) and the North Atlantic Oscillation Index since 1938 are discussed, together with older anecdotal evidence. Correlations are established between the DOI and sea surface temperature anomalies at 100-250 m between 1952 and 1995 in the Sargasso Sea/Sub-Tropical Gyre (STG) spawning area. It is hypothesised that, associated with global warming trends, STG warming inhibits spring thermocline mixing and nutrient circulation, with negative impacts on productivity and hence food for leptocephalus larvae. Concurrent gyre spin-up also affects major currents and slowing of oceanic migration has probably enhanced starvation and predation losses. Local factors, such as unfavourable wind-driven currents, can also affect recruitment of glass eels on continental shelves. In contrast, evidence is discussed that indicates fishing mortality and continental climate change appear to have had lesser impacts. Similar starvation-advection explanations for declines in Japanese eel recruitment are proposed. Predictions for the future are made and multidisciplinary and integrated monitoring and research are recommended for managing eel stocks and fisheries.

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