Christopher Johnson
Sipayik Environmental Department
Passamaquoddy Tribe
Perry, Maine

The Sipayik Environmental Department at Pleasant Point is expanding focus on American eel (Anguilla rostrata), which have been vital to Wabanaki culture and survival for thousands of years. Efforts to maintain and enhance eel populations in the ancestral homeland are critical to the continued sustainability of the species. Pilot eel studies in the Pennamaquan and Little River watersheds will use mark-recapture methods (based on the ASMFC-accepted methods also being used by DMR) to determine the size of the yellow and silver eel populations in Boyden and Pennamaquan lakes, two of the major commercial fishing areas for the Tribe’s glass eel fishery.

Eels were so important to the Passamaquoddy that eel fishing sites were included in the 1794 treaty that reserved the Tribe’s fishing rights. The Downeast glass eel fishery has brought major economic benefits to not only the tribe, but also the entire state of Maine. The Passamaquoddy Tribe has been involved in eel management and conservation for some time, but only since 2011 has the fishery been under major scrutiny due to skyrocketing glass eel prices. The philosophy of the Passamaquoddy demands that they maintain the right of eels to persist at all life stages, even while using them to make a modest living. Looking ahead, the only way to guarantee sustainable fishing, and thus fishing for future generations, is to co-manage the fishery and provide feedback to fishermen and management agencies.

The population data will inform population enhancement and eel passage programs.

Sea Grant funds $5,000