Friday, March 11, 2011


I've been reading James Prosek's wonderful book, Eels, which Laura gave me for Christmas. One of the characters featured in the book is Ray Turner, who catches eels in the upper Delaware River in a stone fishing weir, then smokes and sells them. He spends a good part of the year out in the middle of the river repairing his weir--which has been there for generations--by hand.

I got curious whether it would show up on google satellite. And lo, here it is. You can see the V-shaped rapids created by the weir. The mature eel run downstream for a couple of days during September, and are funneled into wooden traps placed at the vertex of the V.

Among the many amazing facts about eels, here's one I did not know: Just about all the eel we consume here (mostly in unagi, I would guess), is farm-raised in China. However, no one has been able to profitably farm-raise eel larvae. Consequently, the tiny young eel (glass eel) are netted as they run upstream, mostly from the Atlantic (quite a few from Maine), then shipped live to China where they are raised to adulthood. The glass eels are extremely valuable, often going for thousands of dollars per pound. This of course reflects the fact that a variety of F-ed-up human impacts have damaged or destroyed many eel fisheries.

No one has ever observed "freshwater" eel spawning in nature, and no one is even sure where it occurs (but somewhere in the wide Sargasso Sea, at least for the eel in North America).

Prosek also mingles with some Maoris and Pacific Islanders who revere the giant freshwater eels native to their waters and even base some creation myths on them. Altogether the book is a revelation, although I'm not necessarily happy that Prosek may impel me to give up my unagi.

No comments:

Post a Comment