Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Influence of ocean circulation on Japanese eel recruitment

Influence of ocean circulation and the Kuroshio large meander on the 2018 Japanese eel recruitment season

Authors: Chang Y-L K,  Miyazawa Y, Miller MJ, Tsukamoto K

Abstract. Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) recruitment to Japan was very low during the early 2017−2018 recruitment season when most glass eels are usually caught, but catches increased in the late recruitment season when recruitment usually decreases. Concurrently, the Kuroshio meander south of Japan had formed again after the previous event ended in 2005. The role of the large meander and ocean circulation features such as the North Equatorial Current (NEC) in the unusual 2017−2018 Japanese eel recruitment timing-pattern was investigated using a three-dimensional particle tracking model that simulated swimming behaviors of virtual larvae (v-larvae) in addition to their drift in ocean currents. Four recruitment seasons were selected for when the Kuroshio large meander was present (2004−2005, 2017−2018) or absent (2009−2010, 2015−2016), and when NEC was shifted north (2004−2005, 2015−2016) or south (2009−2010, 2017−2018). The simulated recruitment timing-patterns were similar to the actual recent-year recruitment, with no early recruitment period v-larvae arrival to southern Japan and increased late period recruitment occurring. Rather than being related to the presence of the Kuroshio large meander, the late arrival appeared to be caused by a southward shifted, weak North Equatorial Current near the spawning area, a longer Subtropical Countercurrent eddy region retention time, and a weak Kuroshio during the early migration and recruitment period of those years. In the late recruitment period, the Kuroshio was stronger than other selected years near the East China Sea and south of Japan and v-larvae were transported more rapidly. The Kuroshio large meander may influence local eel recruitment in Japan, and the recirculation formed by the large meander could potentially enhance recruitment to the Tokai region. Oriented (northwestward) swimming v-larvae were less affected by the large meander, and showed higher recruitment success than those using along-current swimming. Although the Kuroshio large meander did not seem to be responsible for the unusual recruitment pattern in 2018, how Japanese eel larvae and glass eels actually cross out of the Kuroshio and reach coastal waters in Japan remains to be explored.

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