News FocusEcology

Europe Tries to Save Its Eels

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Science  30 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5991, pp. 505-507
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5991.505

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Once abundant in European waters, the numbers of European eels have fallen drastically since the 1970s, by as much as 99% according to some estimates. Besides dams, turbines, and fishing, a number of factors, including a recently introduced parasite, chemical pollutants, and possible changes in ocean currents, are all suspected of playing a role in the eel's decline. Sorting out the impact of each is difficult, because much about the eel's complex life cycle remains a mystery to scientists. The recent population crash, however, has stimulated innovative research on eels, from complex tracking experiments to simulations of their marathon migration in the lab, as scientists try to understand why the eel is disappearing—and to come up with ways that politicians and others might be able to make a difference.