Recruitment of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has fallen steadily in recent decades, with current levels understood to be at around 5 % of those in the 1970s, and the species is now widely recognised as being endangered. Changes in ocean currents, climate shifts, habitat loss, overfishing, barriers to migration, increased predation, plastic litter and exposure to chemicals have all been postulated as potential causative factors. Several studies have shown a general decline in eel quality (lower lipid content and body condition) over time that may be linked to reduced reproductive success. In this study, data from an eel sampling campaign in 1987 are compared with recent data (2004–2008) for eels in Scotland to assess any temporal changes in eel quality indicators and also to assess any links between current levels of chemical exposure and eel quality. Mean lipid levels, as a percentage of wet muscle mass, were higher in 2004–2008 (37 ± 1.9 % SE) than in 1986 (21 ± 0.9 % SE). By contrast, mean body condition index (K) was slightly lower in the latter period. Considering the 2004–2008 samples, significant inter-site variation was observed for condition index K, while intra-site variation was observed for lipid content and physical parameters relative to age (i.e. mass/age, length/age and lipid/age ratios); however, the variations observed could not be linked to differences in chemical body burdens, indicating that no chemical impacts on the parameters assessed are discernible during the continental life stage of eels in Scotland.
Ian W. Oliver, Kenneth Macgregor, Jason D. Godfrey, Lynsay Harris, Alistair Duguid, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 7519-7528, May 2015