Participants gain hands-on experience in marine conservation

Study is a collaboration between WCS’s New York Aquarium, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Marine Basin Marina

Brooklyn, N.Y. – March 4, 2014 –
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, along with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Marine Basin Marina, launched a field-science program to monitor one of New York City’s most mysterious denizens: the American eel.

The project aims to monitor populations of American eels – a species in decline over much of its North American coastal range. Baseline studies such as this are needed to learn more about the species’ behaviors, threats, and conservation needs. Volunteers will collect valuable information about this migratory fish and its environment in south Brooklyn between February and May 2014.

The project engages New Yorkers through hands-on field work, data collection and visits to Brooklyn shorelines. Specific duties include: Collecting and counting juvenile eels at predetermined sites along the Brooklyn coastline; weighing the fish and releasing them back into the water; and recording data.

Much is unknown about the American eel. They are a catadromous fish (those that migrate from freshwater to spawn in saltwater). Their distinct life cycle requires them to embark on an impressive journey from the Sargasso Sea (salt water environment) to freshwater rivers and streams then back to the sea. American eels begin life in the Atlantic Ocean and travel more than 1,600 miles each spring to enter brackish and fresh waterways along the North American coast as nearly transparent, two-inch long juveniles known as “glass eels.” After a few years, the adult “silver” eels return to the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic to reproduce. Right now, the species is in decline over much of its range, and baseline studies such as this are needed to learn more about its habits, threats, and needs for future survival.

Under the guidance of New York Aquarium Education staff, volunteers will create collection devices known as “mops” and deposit them in the water. The mops will provide glass eels with a place to hide and feel safe from predators.

Volunteers and aquarium staff will check the mops twice a week for the duration of the three month study. Participants will document what they’ve found, which could be anything from glass eels and other small native animals to litter that pollutes the water. Observations about the weather and the environment will also be recorded, as this can give insight into why the species is declining. Animals from the mops will be released back into the water after the data are collected. Aquarium staff and NYS DEC officials will track of how many glass eels were found and compare that number to next year’s study to see if the numbers fluctuate and in which locations.

The American eel survey is an excellent opportunity for students interested in marine conservation careers or similar fields to gain valuable hands-on experience. Participants work with the New York Aquarium education team who enjoy sharing their knowledge with others while supporting the Wildlife Conservation Society’s mission to save wildlife and wild places locally and around the globe.

For further information on this story, or to talk with the experts involved, please contact Barbara Russo at 718-265-3428 or email

Barbara Russo – 718-265-3428;
Max Pulsinelli – 718- 220-5182;
Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium is open every day of the year. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Fall/winter/spring hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily. Admission is $9.95 per person; children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 4 p.m. in the summer and after 3 p.m. in the fall, admission is by pay-what-you-wish donation. The aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. The New York Aquarium is located on property owned by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the WCS New York Aquarium, a beloved part of Brooklyn and all of the City of New York. Due to Hurricane Sandy we are partially opened. Check our website for more information.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit:;;; follow: @theWCS.

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