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An age- and sex-structured assessment model for American eels (Anguilla rostrata) in the Potomac River, Maryland

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American eel (Anguilla rostrata) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla) populations have declined since the 1980s prompting concern about their status and the causes of decline, but stock assessment approaches to estimate effects of fishing on these populations are lacking. Since 1964, 16% of United States commercial American eel harvest came from the Potomac River, yet American eel abundance, production, and fishing mortality is poorly understood in this system. We developed an age- and sex-structured assessment model for 1980–2008 and compared results with the F 50% biological reference point (BRP). The model included natural mortality, fishing mortality, and sex- and age-specific maturation mortality and selectivity. Between 1980 and 2008 estimated recruitment, biomass, and abundance decreased 82%–89%. In all years since 1993, the exploitation rate exceeded the F 50% BRP. The model was moderately sensitive to changes in natural mortality, standard deviation for fishery and recruitment catch-per-unit-effort indices, and initial fishing mortality. The multidecadal decline in recruitment in Chesapeake eels matches those reported elsewhere for American and European eels, suggesting large-scale processes have affected anguillid eel recruitment in the North Atlantic.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, USA. 2: Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA.

Publication date: June 4, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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