Teatown counts eels for the 4th year

Teatown counts eels for the 4th year

These days, more and more people are talking about eels. You may even know someone who “counts” them!

Since 2008, over 900,000 eels have been counted and released above barriers/dams by over 750 volunteers each year. The Hudson Valley’s eel obsession has even made it onto this recent Radiolab episode.

For the past four years Teatown has counted eels with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). The DEC Estuary Program manages a region-wide citizen science project counting the American eel.

Anguilla rostrata

The American eel is a migratory fish species that lives most of its life in fresh water, and part in saltwater. The American eel is catadromous, meaning that they spawn in saltwater (think opposite of a salmon). They are born in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in an area called the Sargasso Sea.

About a year later in late February or early March, here they come: entering New York Harbor toward the Hudson River, which they will call home for the next ten to twenty years of their life. By the time we find them as baby eels, or “glass eels,” they have already migrated thousands of miles to reach the freshwater. When the eels mature, they will leave their freshwater streams and head back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.

The Eel Project

The DEC eel project is a community science project started in 2008. Volunteers count the young eels, as they enter the Hudson River each spring. Throughout the Hudson River Valley students, watershed groups, and community members collect data.

The American eel is in decline over much of its range and counting the glass eels provides baseline data on the eel population in the Hudson River. This project also provides the opportunity for community members to get involved in their local watershed by getting them into their local streams.

History at Furnace Brook

Citizen scientists have counted eels at 15 different sites in the Hudson Valley. Teatown partners with the DEC to manage the Furnace Brook sample site in Cortlandt. Furnace Brook is one of three original sample sites chosen in 2008; since then local community members and Ossining High School students have counted 34, 016 eels in Furnace Brook.

Spring of 2020 marks the 13th year of the eel project, and it is exciting for Teatown to be involved with the broader Hudson Valley community talking about and counting eels. Maybe it’s the talk that has the American Eel currently on a proposed list of regulation changes in the state. In NY the eel is unlisted but proposed as a species of ‘special concern.’ Federally the American eel is not listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Interested in getting in the stream and possibly counting the MILLIONTH eel this spring? Contact Teatown if you’re local to Cortlandt or contact the DEC Estuary Program to get involved throughout the Hudson Valley. Learn more about the project and the data here.

General Interest Meeting: Hudson River Estuary Eel Project

March 7 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Teatown educator Marie Roche will explain how juvenile fish are counted, weighed, and released to better upstream habitats, often above dams, and how you can help protect this critical species by joining the Eel Project as a volunteer.

For adults.

About the Author

Marie Roche

Marie is an environmental educator at Teatown, with a focus on Hudson River programming. She leads field trip programs and coordinates volunteers to encourage environmental stewardship.