Respect Your Elvers! Migration Monitoring for Both Conservation and Constituency-Building

Tuesday, August 19, 2014: 10:30 AM
206B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Chris Bowser , Earth And Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Water Resource Institute, Ithaca, NY
Diadromous fish managers face twin challenges of protecting eel populations while also educating decision-makers and the public about a fish that is often misunderstood or ignored.  At twelve sites along the Hudson River Estuary, researchers and trained citizen-scientists monitor juvenile eel migration according to ASMFC protocols. Volunteers come from a wide range of demographics and backgrounds, from urban youth to college interns, and from laypersons to environmental professionals. The project employs three types of collection gear (fyke nets, “eel mops”, trap-and-pass ramps) to monitor eels along urban shorelines, tributary mouths, and below dams. Species-selective gear, adequate training, clear collection methods, and daily sampling over the migration period help ensure a robust data set of YOY eel numbers, supported by basic environmental data.  Use of volunteers means built-in local support and a very low cost thanks to thousands of hours of donated time. The result is a richer picture of eel migration along the tidal Hudson, both temporally and spatially, plus significant public attention to eels through print and online media, classroom programs, and social networking. This project can be replicated in coastal areas from the Caribbean to Canada, effectively combining migration data collection with public awareness and stewardship.