Predation on migrating eels (Anguilla anguilla L.) from the Western Mediterranean

H. Westerberg*, E. Amilhat, M. Wahlberg, K. Aarestrup, E. Faliex, G. Simon, C. Tardy, D. Righton

*Corresponding author for this work

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Nineteen female silver European eels (Anguilla anguilla L.) were tagged with satellite tags and released in the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean during the migration seasons 2013 and 2015. Sixteen tags transmitted data: five in the Atlantic Ocean, and eleven in the Mediterranean. Of those, 50% of migrating eels were consumed by marine mammals in each year, all in the Mediterranean. The diving behaviour recorded by the tags after the eels were consumed indicated that the most likely predators were deep diving toothed whales. Measurements of the acoustic target strength of the tag showed a negligible effect on the detectability by whale biosonar. Overall, the observed predation rate was similar to that reported for eels escaping into the Atlantic. However, unlike eels in the Atlantic, which are most vulnerable to predators in the first week of escapement as they traverse the continental shelf and before they reach the refuge of the deep ocean, eels escaping from the Mediterranean were predated in deep water, months after release, likely as a consequence of their migration within a relatively narrow and deep corridor in the Alboran Sea. This emphasises the challenge of accounting for natural mortality in management plans for the long-term recovery of the European eel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151613
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

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  • Anguilla anguilla
  • Eel migration
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Predation
  • Toothed whales


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