Danish Boat Leaves Island, Heads Into Sargasso

March 21, 2014

After stopping in Bermuda recently, the Danish marine research vessel Dana is in the Sargasso Sea 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 the Danish Centre for Marine Research, the expedition involves leading experts from a range of Danish and international universities.

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,” the Danish centre said.

Slideshow of the vessel Dana docked in St. George’s this past weekend:

The Centre explained, “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 until May 2014, and is funded by the Danish Centre for Marine Research and the Carlsberg Foundation.

The Sargasso Sea, a vast patch of ocean named for a type of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum, is home to many endemic species, with over 150 invertebrate species living on, or in association with, the Sargassum. Bermuda is the only land mass in the Sargasso Sea.

Earlier this month, representatives from the governments of 11 countries and territories from around the Sargasso Sea and Europe met to reaffirm their support for an initiative, led by Bermuda, to collaborate for the conservation of the Sargasso Sea.

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Category: All, Environment

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