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Saving the American Eel

Saving the American Eel

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OPG is celebrating another successful year of aquatic stewardship and environmental leadership, having made significant strides in the conservation of the American eel.

An endangered species in Ontario, the American eel migrates to the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean to spawn. Blockages, such as dams, a long migratory routes can pose significant problems. In the upper St. Lawrence River, abundance indices are five to eight per cent of those measured in the 1970–80s.

“The American eels have been a big concern for us,” says Dave Stanley, a Senior Environmental Specialist at OPG. “We’ve been working to mitigate our impact on their populations since 1974, when OPG and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) built the first eel ladder at R.H. Saunders Generating Station (GS).”

The Saunders GS eel ladder allows juvenile eels to head upriver across the station. A ladder isn’t effective for downstream migration, so OPG maintains a trap and transport program with local commercial fishermen. The eels are caught and trucked past two hydro stations before being released downstream. Since 2006, OPG has partnered with the MNRF and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to address downstream migration of eels at generating stations.

From 2006 to 2011, the company stocked approximately four million young eels into the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Since then, OPG has engaged families in eel conservation through OPG’s biodiversity program, which supports habitat research at the St. Lawrence River Institute, and has hosted fish and eel workshops at the St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre.

The centre has experienced a record number of visitors this year, allowing more Ontarians to get involved in protecting one of the province’s most interesting aquatic predators.