Partners support action plan to bring back American eel

    Native Species Important Part Of Great Lakes Ecosystem

    TORONTO, June 20 /CNW/ - 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
    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.

    Disponible en français



                             RIVER 2006 TO 2011

    The key components of the Ontario Power Generation Action Plan include
trapping and transporting mature eels, stocking of young eels, and monitoring
the effectiveness of these measures.

    Transporting Mature Eels Around Generating Stations
    -  Ontario Power Generation, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
       and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are conducting studies to see if
       mature eels can be captured in Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence
       River and trucked downstream to the lower St. Lawrence.
    -  The federal government's contribution to this initiative has been and
       will continue to be primarily in the form of its scientific research
       capacity and collaboration with the various parties. Some of the work
       currently underway includes the compilation of fish habitat
       inventories to understand the current status and condition of eel
       habitat within its historical range.
    -  Transporting the eels allows them to avoid hydroelectric generating
       stations on the St. Lawrence.
    -  In 2008, commercial fishermen are engaged to capture live, large eels
       (over 2.5 lb.) using traditional fishing gear. The eels are being
       collected, measured and tagged by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
    -  Ontario Power Generation is trucking the eels downstream to Quebec
       where they are being released into Lac St Pierre (near Trois Rivières)
       with the assistance of the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de
       la Faune du Québec.
    -  In future years, Ontario Power Generation will confirm that these eels
       are not negatively affected by the capture and transport process, and
       that they do subsequently undertake a spawning migration out of the
       St. Lawrence River back to the Atlantic Ocean.

    Stocking Young Eels into the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario
    -  In addition to the above program, Ontario Power Generation is
       acquiring young eels, known as "glass" eels, in the Maritimes and
       stocking them into the upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
    -  The glass eels are collected by commercial fishers in the Maritimes as
       they migrate from the ocean into the estuaries of Maritime rivers in
       the spring.
    -  The glass eels are extensively tested for pathogens and parasites at
       the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island before being
       authorized for shipment by truck to Ontario.
    -  The glass eels are being released into several areas in the St.
       Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario with good habitat for young
    -  Ontario Power Generation and the Ministry of Natural Resources will be
       monitoring the success of the stocking to confirm that the glass eels
       survive and grow.
    -  Ontario Power Generation will be releasing a few million glass eels
       over about a four-year period in the hope that this action will
       accelerate the recovery of the American eel in Ontario.

    (*)American eel is an important commercial fish species with no
    relationship to the species commonly referred to in Ontario as lamprey

    Disponible en français


For further information:

For further information: Phil Jenkins, Media Relations, Fisheries and
Oceans Canada, Ottawa, (613) 990-7537; Jolanta Kowalski, Communications
Services Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, (416) 314-2106; Media
Relations, Ontario Power Generation, 1-877-592-4008 or (416) 592-4008

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