Dana. Foto Line Reeh

Danish Eel Expedition 2014

The biggest marine research vessel in Denmark - Dana - is in the Saragasso Sea between Bermuda and the West Indies to investigate the relationship between climate-related changes in the eel’s spawning grounds and the sharp decline of the eel in Europe.

Headed up by DTU Aqua, the Danish Eel Expedition 2014 involves leading experts from a range of Danish and international universities. Together, the more than 20 research projects covered by the expedition are intended to plug the gaps in our knowledge about the breeding habits and early life of the valuable and critically endangered eel. DTU’s marine research vessel Dana has been chosen for the voyage.

A distinctive feature of the eel is that it spawns far from its nursery grounds in Europe, requiring the eel larvae to ride the ocean currents for their 6,000-kilometre trip back across the Atlantic. Today, the number of young eel returning to the coasts of Europe is just 2–10 per cent of the quantities seen in the 1970s. In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added the eel to its list of critically endangered species.
 
In addition to charting precisely where the eel spawn, and how this interacts with - and is affected by - climate-dependent fronts and ocean currents, the researchers will be attempting shed light on issues such as why the eel spawns in the Sargasso Sea, which route the eel larvae take back to Europe, and what they feed on during their long journey. Lack of knowledge about the needs and diet of the eel larvae is currently responsible for a significant bottleneck in the work to breed eel larvae at farms in Denmark.  

The expedition is scheduled to last from 28 February 2014 till 5 May 2014 and is funded by the Danish Centre for Marine Research and the Carlsberg Foundation.