At one time, eels were so numerous that they were considered pests. Today they are threatened with total extinction. Eel populations around the world are declining dramatically. This decline is one of the most significant and noticeable changes taking place in the environment. The Central and Eastern European region is particularly affected by the decline in eel populations. The eel population here has declined by more than 90% since the mid-1980s.

Eels are a keystone species in aquatic ecosystems – they play an important role in the food chain. They regulate the populations of other fish species and remove dead organisms from the water. In addition, they are an important source of food for marine wildlife and one of the most desirable fish species for fishermen. The eel population is important for maintaining biological balance.

Decline in the eel population – causes

One of the main reasons for the decline in eel populations is water pollution. As a result of human activities, harmful substances, such as chemicals, heavy metals and other compounds, enter rivers and lakes, negatively affecting the eel’s health and its ability to reproduce.

Global warming and climate change are other factors affecting the extinction of this species. Higher water temperature affects all aspects of the eel’s life, which means that its physiological and reproductive activities depend on water temperature. In warmer environments, it may be weaker, less active and less effective in hunting.

Dams and stream baffles are also an important factor affecting the eel population. They make it difficult for fish to migrate, reduce access to food and spawning sites.

Unfortunately, the decline in the eel population is also related to human fishing activities. As a result of irresponsible behavior on the part of fishermen, eels are being caught in excessive quantities, in an uncontrolled manner. This applies not only to adults, but also to larvae and eggs.

How can eels be protected?

To prevent further decline in the eel population, it is important to take effective action. One way to protect eels is to restrict fishing and regulate trade. Many countries have already introduced relevant regulations, but it is important that these laws are enforced and strictly followed.

Another important step is to improve water quality. Eels need clean and healthy places to live in order to reproduce and survive. It is therefore necessary to reduce emissions and improve the treatment of wastewater that is discharged into rivers and lakes.

It is also important to protect and restore eelgrass habitat. Many populations have been destroyed by the degradation of their refuges: devastation of riverside forests, changes to the riverbed and other forms of environmental damage. It is therefore necessary to work to protect and restore these habitats.

Educating the public, is another important measure in protecting the eel population. Above all, it is essential to raise awareness of the negative effects of human activity on the water environment. People need to be aware of the value of eels and their role in the ecosystem, as well as the effects of overfishing and water pollution.

It is also very important to support scientific research on eels. Only by understanding their behavior and needs can we better protect the species.

Eel conservation requires efforts and a comprehensive approach to the problem. Action is needed on many levels – government, NGOs, fishermen, scientists and the public – to ensure the survival of this ecosystem-valuable species.

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