Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Mapping silver eel migration routes in the North Sea

Verhelst, Pieterjan; Reubens, Jan; Coeck, Johan; Moens, Tom; Simon, Janek; Van Wichelen, Jeroen; Westerberg, Hakan; Wysujack, Klaus; Righton, David


Recent developments in tracking technology resulted in the mapping of various marine spawning migration routes of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla). However, migration routes in the North Sea have rarely been studied, despite many large European rivers and hence potential eel growing habitat discharge into the North Sea. In this study, we present the most comprehensive map to date with migration routes by silver European eels in the North Sea and document for the first time successful eel migration through the English Channel. Migration tracks were reconstructed for 42 eels tagged in Belgium and 12 in Germany. Additionally, some eels moved up north to exit the North Sea over the British Isles, confirming the existence of two different routes, even for eels exiting from a single river catchment. Furthermore, we observed a wide range in migration speeds (6.8-45.2 km day(-1)). We hypothesize that these are likely attributed to water currents, with eels migrating through the English Channel being significantly faster than eels migrating northward.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2022, volume: 12, number: 1, article number: 318

Authors' information

Verhelst, Pieterjan
Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Verhelst, Pieterjan
Ghent University
Reubens, Jan
Flanders Marine Inst
Coeck, Johan
Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Moens, Tom
Ghent University
Simon, Janek
Inst Inland Fisheries EV Potsdam Sacrow
Van Wichelen, Jeroen
Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Wysujack, Klaus
Johann Heinrich von Thunen Institute
Righton, David
Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG14 Life below water

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)