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American Eel Again Fails to Make Endangered Species List

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the American eel does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency is recommending that harvest levels be monitored and fish passage improved for the long-term stability of the biologically important species.

The announcement follows an in-depth status review of a 2010 petition to list the eel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Peer reviewed by several federal agencies, the assessment concluded that the eel's overall population is stable and not in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

Maine is one of two states that still has a commercial harvest for elvers or baby eels.

"We still are seeing local mortality from both harvest and hydro-electric facilities but we're seeing that at a local or regional level, not at a level that is threatening the species," says Meagan Racey, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She says regulators will continue to monitor harvest levels and other stressors for the eel, which serves as prey for other fish, mammals and birds and which is often an indicator of river health.

"While this status review has determined that the eel population overall is stable that does not change our agency's commitment to conserving the species," Racey says.

In arguing for listing the species as threatened, the California-based Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability says eels have lost more than 80 percent of their habitat and suffer from commercial fishing pressure.

Maine elvers, used in sushi, were worth more than $2,100 dollars per pound in 2015. This is the second time the service has evaluated the American eel and found listing not warranted.