On the distribution of the European eel (Anguilla anguila) and its fisheries

Dekker, W.


For the distribution of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), only Schmidt (1909) has conducted substantial investigations, yielding a qualitative description (Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Europe and Northern Africa). In this article, a meta-analysis of reported fishing yields is presented, showing a major concentration of glass eel yield in the Bay of Biscay (and possibly farther south) and of yellow and (or) silver eel yield in the western Mediterranean. Fisheries target the glass eel stage at highest stock density and shift to the silver eel stage at low density. Because there is no suitable habitat in the Sahara, the southern limit is, contrary to Schmidt's belief, primarily determined by continental conditions. From the centre of the distribution to the north, a long and slow decline in density occurs. The mismatch between northern temperatures and the species' preference, in combination with the very low abundance, indicates that the European eel is best seen as a warm-water species, like most other eel species (Anguilla spp.), showing a considerable northern diaspora