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Partners support action plan to bring back American eel

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Partners support action plan to bring back American eel

Native Species Important Part Of Great Lakes Ecosystem

An action plan to find means of restoring the American eel in the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario was announced today by Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Loyola Hearn, Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield and Ontario Power Generation Executive Vice President - Hydro John Murphy.

"The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the American eel to ecosystems in Ontario and is committed to working with the province and Ontario Power Generation to restore eels to the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario for current and future generations," said Minister Hearn. "Our contribution to this initiative will continue to be primarily in the form of our scientific research capacity, including the compilation of fish habitat inventories to better understand eel habitat."

The multi-year plan will aim to find solutions to eel survival, and stock and monitor this important native species. Under the plan, Ontario Power Generation is spending $2.5 million on eel restoration by the end of 2011, including $1 million to develop ways to trap eels during their downstream migration and transport them around dams.  

"Protecting and restoring Ontario's native species is vital to our success in sustaining the province's biodiversity," said Minister Cansfield.  "American eels once played a key role in Ontario's aquatic ecosystem; the action plan includes steps to reduce specific threats to eels and increase their numbers."

As part of the plan, Ontario Power Generation stocked 2.6 million young eels into the upper St. Lawrence River during the past two years. The plan also calls for continued stocking and monitoring to ensure that the young eels survive, grow and contribute to the aquatic ecosystem. 

"We are pleased to provide support for this innovative and important research project to find solutions to restore and preserve the eel population.  For over 30 years, an eel ladder has been operated at Ontario Power Generation's Saunders Generating Station in Cornwall, and since 2006 we have been involved in eel stocking programs and most recently researching on ways to trap and transport eels," said Executive Vice President Murphy.

American eels have declined dramatically in the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario since the 1990s.  The number of eels passing over an eel ladder at the Saunders Generating Station during their upstream migration has dropped 99 per cent over that time. The federal and provincial governments are working together across Canada to conserve and restore this significant species.

Restoring the species is especially challenging because all American eels are part of a single breeding population that spawns in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The young eels migrate to the inland waters of North America, remain there for 10 to 15 years, and then migrate back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die.

For more information on the action plan, see attached backgrounder.

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