Mortality of silver eel (Anguilla anguilla) migrating downstream through a small hydroelectric plant on the Drawa River in northern Poland

  • Piotr Dębowski
  • Rafał Bernaś
  • Michał Skóra
  • Jacek Morzuch
Keywords: eel, hydroelectric plant, mortality, spawning migration


The European eel, Anguilla anguilla L., is an endangered species. Barriers to its downstream spawning migration are one of the greatest threats this species faces. There are hundreds of hydroelectric plants (HEP) on rivers in Poland (> 600), and thousands throughout Europe. Eel that pass through HEP turbines as they migrate downstream suffer high mortality, but this depends mainly on local and technical conditions. Silver eel mortality was estimated and the possibility of the fish bypassing the turbines was studied between November 2013 and June 2014 at a typical HEP in northern Poland. Two telemetry methods were used with 49 eel: passive integrated transponder (PIT) system and acoustic telemetry. Fifty five percent of eel migrated downstream in fall 2013, soon after their release, and 45% migrated the next spring. The eel did not use the fish passes designed for upstream migration; thus, they were forced to go through the turbines, which resulted in 55% mortality. HEPs cause interruptions and delays in eel spawning migrations and are responsible for high eel mortality. This can make implementing an eel restitution plan difficult or even impossible in river systems with many barriers.


P. Dębowski [+], R. Bernaś, M. Skóra, J. Morzuch
Department of Migratory Fishes in Rutki
Inland Fisheries Institute in Olsztyn, Poland