Eeltrack film documents migration of American eels from Nova Scotia to the Sargasso Sea

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Over the last six years, a group of dedicated scientists from academic and government institutions in Eastern Canada have been tagging and tracking the migration patterns of the elusive American eels, from the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia, across the open ocean and all the way to the Sargasso Sea — a distance of over 2,400 kilometres.

The story of the mystery eels has been published by outlets such as Nature Communications, National Geographic and Science and has been crucial in discovering the migration routes of these elusive aquatic animals. Last year, film director Julie Perron joined the group of eel researchers in Cape Breton, N.S, providing viewers with a glimpse into the window of the tag and release process conducted by the scientists.

The documentary, Eeltrack, was filmed in Nova Scotia in October 2015 and has recently been released on the web for public use. The film presents an opportunity for educators, students, and those curious about the mysterious fish a look into the work carried out by researchers as they piece together the mystery of the American eel migratory puzzle.

Scientists from Université Laval, Dalhousie University and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have worked on the project over the course of six years, as a team of the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) – the first study of its kind to track eel migratory routes and spawning sites, providing critical information for scientists, policy makers and fishers on this threatened iconic species.

The project researchers include OTN principal investigators, Dr. Julian Dodson (Université Laval) and Dr. Martin Castonguay (DFO), along with OTN researchers, Dr. Mélanie Béguer-Pon, Dr. Shiliang Shan, Dr. Kyoko Ohashi (Dalhousie University), and Mr. José Benchetrit (Université Laval).

“Eels are mysterious and fascinating. We still know little about their oceanic migrations despite many years of research. Hopefully such research will help to protect the species during the oceanic phase of their migration,” says Castonguay.

Eeltrack gives its audience a visual glimpse into how eels are captured, measured, weighed, tagged and sent on their way as they begin their journey to the Sargasso Sea – a long and perilous one that has remained a mystery to researchers for decades.

“Eels migrate thousands of km in the ocean, without feeding and in relatively deep waters, to reach their spawning area in the Sargasso Sea,” says Beguer-Pon. “Telemetry technology provides us just about the only means of unraveling the mystery surrounding their oceanic migration: the exact location of the spawning sites, the migration routes they take and how they find their way in such a dark and dangerous environment. Once these important aspects of its life cycle are revealed, it will help understanding and protecting the species.”

Watch the film here, using the password eeltrack: Eeltrack film

Film credits:

Camera and sound: Julie Perron
Producer and director: Julie Perron
Editing: Alexandre Leblanc
With participation of: Julie Perron, ACIC Aide au Cinéma Indépendant Office National du Film du Canada

To see more of Julie’s work, please visit: http://julieperron.net/

The team prepares to attach satellite pop-up tags to eels in waiting

Getting ready to release the eels before their journey to the Sargasso Sea

Photos courtesy of Shilling Shan and Dr. Mélanie Béguer-Pon

An eel on the start of its long migration route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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