European eel
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European eel

The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is a species of eel, a snake-like, catadromous fish. They can reach in exceptional cases a length of 1,5 m, but are normally much smaller, about 6080 cm, and rarely more than 1 m.

The European Eel is a critically endangered species. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90% (possibly even 98%). Contributing factors include overfishing, parasites such as Anguillicola crassus, barriers to migration such as hydroelectric plants, and natural changes in the North Atlantic oscillation, Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic drift. Recent work suggests that PCB pollution may be a factor in the decline.

Eels have been important sources of food both as adults (including the famous jellied eels of East London) and as glass eels. Glass eel fishing using basket traps has been of significant economic value in many river estuaries on the western seaboard of Europe.

In captivity European eels can become very old.