Aquat. Living Resour.
Volume 31, 2018
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Published online||22 January 2018|
Decreased stock entering the Belgian Meuse is associated with the loss of colonisation behaviour in yellow-phase European eels
Laboratory of Fish Demography and Hydroecology, Biology of Behaviour Unit, Freshwater and Oceanic Science Unit of Research (UR-FOCUS), University of Liège,
22 Quai E. Van Beneden,
* Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Handling Editor: Jérémy Lobry
Accepted: 4 December 2017
The upstream migratory behaviour of yellow-phase European eels was investigated in regulated inland rivers (>320 km upstream the sea), where the stock is in drastic decline. From 2010 to 2015, eels entering the Belgian Meuse River (n = 1357; total length, 231–755 mm) were caught in fish passes, tagged with a pit-tag and released. Their upstream movements were tracked during the next six consecutive years, using three detection stations installed in vertical-slot fish passes of the Meuse and its Ourthe tributary. Among the 1357 eels tagged, 27.6% (n = 374 individuals) were detected at one or more of the three upstream detection stations. Only 6.6% (n = 89) of tagged eels were detected at the two subsequent stations. In this last group, most of the detected eels continued to move upstream through the Meuse rather than leaving it for the Ourthe. Water temperature >13 °C, river flow 24–226 m3/s, dark time 00:00–05:00 h and the spring–summer seasons were the most important cues for upstream migration. Temperatures and flows at detection did not differ between size classes of ascending eels, while the detection period was earlier and daily speed was faster in large (>450 mm) eels. However, small (≤300 mm) eels moved further upstream at slow speeds because they alternated between short periods of movement and long stationary periods. This behaviour suggests the existence of a few nomad individuals and probably more home range dwellers in the entering population. Small eels were better suited to colonise upper rivers.
Key words: Upstream movement / behaviour / body size / speed / yellow-phase eels / freshwater
© EDP Sciences 2018
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