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Route choices, migration speeds and daily migration activity of European silver eels Anguilla anguilla in the River Rhine, north-west Europe

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Downstream migration of Anguilla anguilla silver eels was studied in the Lower Rhine, Germany, and the Rhine Delta, The Netherlands, in 2004–2006. Fish (n = 457) released near Cologne with implanted transponders were tracked by remote telemetry at 12 fixed detection locations distributed along the different possible migration routes to the North Sea. Relatively more A. anguilla migrated via the Waal than the Nederrijn, as would be expected from the ratio of river discharges at the bifurcation point at Pannerden. Downstream migration from the release site to Rhine-Xanten, close to the German–Dutch border, generally occurred in the autumn of the year of release but migration speeds tended to be low and variable and unaffected by maturation status or river discharge rates. Detection frequencies were not significantly related to discharge peaks or lunar cycles, but there was a minor detection peak 1–6 h after sunset. Between 2004 and 2009, 43% of the 457 A. anguilla released were never detected and of the 260 detected entering the Netherlands, 83 (32%) were detected escaping to the sea, 78 (94%) via the Nieuwe Waterweg and three (4%) and two (2%) via the sluices in the Haringvlietdam and Afsluitdijk, respectively. Possible causes of non-detections are discussed and it is suggested that many A. anguilla temporarily ceased migration, but that fishing mortality could have been important during passage through the Dutch parts of the Rhine. Practical implications of the results for predicting emigration routes, timings and magnitudes and use in management initiatives to promote escapement of A. anguilla silver eels to the sea are critically discussed.

Keywords: escapement; lunar cycle; maturation status; river discharge; telemetry

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Bezirksregierung Arnsberg, Heinsbergerstrasse 53, 57399 Kirchhundem-Albaum, Germany 2: Visadvies bv, Twentehaven 5, 3433 PT Nieuwegein, The Netherlands 3: Sportvisserij Nederland, Postbus 162, 3720 AD Bilthoven, The Netherlands 4: Rheinfischereigenossenschaft im Lande Nordrhein-Westfalen, Römerhofweg 12, 50374 Erftstadt, Germany 5: Vivion bv, Händelstraat 18, 3533 GK Utrecht, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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