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Social network analysis as a tool to inform anguillid eel conservation and management

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>ICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)402-410
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/01/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Eel Management Plans demand European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla) escapement to the sea of at least 40% of that expected historically in the absence of human impacts. Landlocked lentic waterbodies, such as drinking water reservoirs, host substantial numbers of eel, which could represent a significant contribution to catchment-based conservation targets. To optimize netting strategies for eel management policies, information on their aggregation behaviour is currently needed but lacking. We performed a fine-scale acoustic tracking study to monitor the movements of 86 European eel in a UK reservoir. Social network sampling and sensitivity analyses were used to assess whether eel aggregate at scales relevant for current capture techniques. European eel were found to aggregate at spatial and temporal scales of 50 m and 2 days, respectively, which complements current capture methodologies and recommendations. Aggregations were not driven by fixed resources, indicating that other factors, such as sociality, may drive aggregation behaviour. Results also show that current netting practices could be optimized by increasing netting lengths from 50 to 80 m. In addition to aiding conservation and management protocols, these results provide an ecological foundation for exploring the role of social behaviour in this Critically Endangered species.