A researcher on Mustang Island, Texas, showed off a huge American eel he found washed ashore in video from Tuesday, January 17.
Jace Tunnell, a reserve director at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, shared a video on YouTube of him enthusiastically presenting a female American eel, which he said was around four foot long.
“This is basically as big as they get,” Tunnell said. “This is likely a female, they’re larger than the males.”
Tunnell added that large females can have up to four million eggs.
The American eel is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Tunnell explained that this was in part due to the negative impact of dam building on the eel’s life cycle over the past century. “Whenever all the dams and stuff started coming in, the life cycle of these fish, of going up the rivers, coming down the rivers, and going way out in to the ocean to be able to have their eggs […] with those dams on the rivers, really, they weren’t able to do the things they would normally do.”
The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, which Tunnell manages, conducts research and education into preserving healthy Texas coastlines. Credit: Jace Tunnell, Reserve Director at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute via Storyful
JACE TUNNELL: Jace Tunnell here. Look what we got today that washed up. It's an American eel. And if you've never seen one of these, gosh. This right here is like larger than what you would normally see. This is basically as big as they get.
And let's see if-- I'll try to get some close up shots here. But this thing is massive. It's got to be four feet long. And the interesting thing about these is that usually you find them a lot smaller. People use them for fishing bait and stuff like that.
So obviously, this one's too big for that. But most of them you find are small, and people hook them on there, great fishing bait. Now, these have almost been wiped out. These really live up in like rivers and things like that they can be in the estuaries.
But whenever all the dams and stuff started coming in, the life cycle of these fish of going up the rivers, coming down the rivers, and going way out into the ocean to be able to have their eggs, which a big female-- this is likely a female. They're larger than the males. The big females can have like up to 4 million eggs.
I mean, these are very interesting animal. But with those dams on the rivers, really they weren't able to do the things they would normally do. You can find these all the way up into the Chesapeake here in the Gulf of Mexico. Just real interesting animal.
They're opportunistic feeders, so they feed on things that they'd find out there, fish, crabs, stuff like that. They're not real particular. But a lot of people get these mixed up with like a moray eel.
Now, the difference with a moray eel is you see this dorsal fin? Dorsal fin is the fins that fish have on top of their bodies. But the dorsal fin would actually start way up here by the head. So way up here rather than back here. And then you can look at their pectoral fins as well. A lot of people think they're snakes.
No. They're a fish, just a real interesting fish. But man, look at this thing. OK. I thought I'd tell you a little bit about these things. And let you see this for yourself. OK. We'll see you next time. Bye.