“How Trucking Eels Is Reviving A River”

“Scientists trap and relocate young eels, helping the species and reviving an ecosystem. Some say assisted migration could help other species survive the warming planet.”

“CONOWINGO, Md. — A pandemic rages. Wildfires are blazing. ‘Murder hornets’ invade. For those looking for it, Steve Minkkinen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has some rare happy news.

“Actually, 2020 was a good year for something,” he says. He’s talking about American eels. They’re having a good year — a good decade, in fact — continuing their unlikely comeback in the largest river on the East Coast, with help from daily truck rides.

For more than a decade, biologists have been trapping baby eels in the Susquehanna River and trucking them past four hydroelectric dams to release them in freshwater creeks upstream. Dams interrupt the natural migration routes of the eels, which are born in the Chesapeake Bay and then swim upriver, sometimes hundreds of miles, into freshwater streams, where they grow into adulthood before eventually returning to the bay.

The idea of trapping and physically relocating a species — in this case, moving eels around physical obstacles — is gaining new interest as the planet warms and causes some plant and animal species to struggle in their native habitats. Moving them to a more hospitable home, also known as assisted migration, may be one way to save some species as the climate changes.”

Clare Fieseler reports for the Washington Post September 17, 2020.