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Eels are any fish that belongs to order Anguilliformes, which is comprised of 4 suborders, has 20 families, 111 generals, and around 800 species. Majority of eels are predatory animals, meaning they hunt or prey on other animals for food. The word “eel” is referred for other fishes with similar shape, such as the spiny eels and the famous electric eels, but these two don’t belong to the order of Anguilliformes.
Four Most Popular Species of Commercial Eels
Also known by descriptive names like glass eel, bronze eel, yellow eel, silver eel, elver, common eel, Atlantic eel and Easgaon, the American eel is characterized by a slender elongated body with single fin that runs around mid-back, to the tail all the way to its belly. Its lower jaw is slightly longer than its upper jaw, while its lips are significantly thicker. They can grow up to 4 ft and weigh around 17 lbs., Females are typically larger, have higher fins, smaller eyes and lighter in color.
They’re commonly found in western part of the Atlantic Ocean, usually in Caribbean all the way to Iceland and Greenland, and more in Sargasso Sea where they spawn. They live in freshwater in Canada as well, as the country’s marine waters connects to the Atlantic Ocean through Niagara Falls in the north up to the mid-Labrador coast.
As with American eels, European eels also have long and narrow bodies, with a long and continuous dorsal fin that runs from mid back, to the tail and all the way to its belly. It comes with a slimy skin with either tiny or absent scales. Their lower jaw is also slightly longer than their upper jaw. Their colors vary on their age, but they often appear black, brown or olive-green with yellow on their bellies, while other adults are silver in color.
European eels are migratory animals; they breed in the sea and migrate all the way to the rivers and freshwater to grow. They return to the ocean to spawn when they reach sexual maturity. It is believer that as with most eels, they’re bred in Sargasso Sea, and as larvae, they drift with the ocean current for around 3 years, sending them to the Gulf Stream of Europe.
They’re common in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam and even in the northern parts of the Philippines. They’re also migratory animals, which mean they spawn at sea, migrate to freshwater and go back to the ocean to breed. Only this time, they spawn North Equatorial Current in western part of North Pacific all the way to the east of Mariana Islands. Their larvae are carried by sea current to East Asia, where they swim to the rivers, estuaries and lakes.
They live in estuaries and freshwater, develop yellow color for a specific number of years and become silver when they mature. The adult eels will swim back to the ocean for thousands of miles to spawn, without feeding. In rare cases, they can reach up to 5 feet, but generally, adults are about 2 to 2.6 feet long and weigh about 8 lbs. They’re popular delicacy in East Asia, which is one of the main reasons why they’re now considered endangered species.
This commercial specie of eel is found in the coastal river areas, dams and lakes of New Zealand, south-eastern Australia, and some parts of the South Pacific, including Fiji, Tahiti, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and New Caledonia. They’re quite distinguishable from other species, as they have a rough and tubular snake-like body, rather than slender. They also have smaller head with jaws reaching all the way back, below their eyes or even further.
They reach maximum size of about 3.6 feet and weighs about 6.6 lbs.