According to De Telegraaf (Dutch), Scientists from the University of Leiden have received a EUR500,000 subsidy to try to breed eel commercially in the harbor of Volendam, near Amsterdam.
So why do I care?
Many people may not realize just how exciting and mysterious the sex lives of eel is. Are. Species-wise.
(loupiote, website www.loupiote.com)
For centuries people tried to figure out the life cycle of eel. It turns out to be extremely weird. Eel breeding grounds are way out in the Sargasso Sea _ exact location still unknown.
They start out as little larvae that inch their way across the bottom of the Atlantic until they reach the European coastline as glass eel ('leptocephalus', or 'light-heads'). These then head inland, going up rivers and turning into the freshwater 'yellow' eel that lots of Dutch people love to eat.
And a few tourists like to eat them too. But I digress.
They swim upriver and grow, and as adults, swim back out to the sea, where their eyes grow huge and they flatten out, becoming sea eel. They head back to the Sargasso to make sexy time.
So far, there's not any way of reproducing this cycle in a laboratory.
"Eel fisheries are still dependent on wild glass eel," prof. Arjan Palstra told the paper.
They scoop 'em up on the coast _ sometimes for stunning prices _ and then fatten them in controlled conditions to keep eel on the supermarket shelves and in restaurants.
"If we can get the process of breeding them going, then we'll be independent of nature and we can maybe even start releasing eel back into the wild," Palstra said.
To put it mildly, European Eel (anguilla anguilla) populations have collapsed. In a world where we hear lots of scare stories about fish populations falling, the eel stands out: with no way to breed them in captivity who knows what may happen.
So I bid the researchers/entrepreneurs good luck and godspeed.
Unagi, my absolute favorite fish dish.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008