Turkey, Environment

Eels travel from Mexico to Turkey to reproduce

Eels’ journey of 7,000 km to Bafa Lake in southwestern Turkey lasts 3 years

Ferdi Uzun   | 10.11.2021
Eels travel from Mexico to Turkey to reproduce People fish for eel, which is a critically endangered species and its fishing is allowed in a controlled manner, in Aydin, Turkey on November 05, 2021. The eels, whose breeding grounds are the Sargasso Gulf of Mexico, cross the ocean on the 7,000-kilometer road they emerge as larvae, and reach first to Gibraltar and then to inland waters in Turkey via the Mediterranean. ( Mahmut Serdar Alakus - Anadolu Agency )

AYDIN, Turkey

Eels travel from Mexico to Turkey for 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) to reproduce.

Coming to the world in Mexico’s Sargasso Bay, eels reach Bafa Lake in the southwestern Turkish province of Mugla after traveling for three years. After spending some time in the lake, they start to travel back to where they originally came from.

Bafa Lake, once a bay of the Aegean Sea, provides an ideal environment for many endangered bird species to reproduce and spend the winter.

Eels are among the mysterious species choosing lakes for reproduction.

Starting the journey as a larva, eels undergo transformation on their way. Their color turn glass color around Gibraltar and yellow when they reach the Mediterranean. Once they are wholly capable of swimming, they arrive in the Aegean Sea.

Eels, mostly choosing freshwater to live, reach Bafa Lake, where they can live long, after the Aegean Sea.

They have an interesting life span, arriving in lakes to grow and reproduce after a 4,350-mile-long journey that lasts three years, and returning back to the Sargasso Bay, where their life span ends.

Eels in Turkey mostly live in inland freshwater areas, starting their return journey usually in winter.

Science, however, is yet to find out how eels found their route to Turkey -- intuitive or some other way, while many scientists, including Turkey's scientists, are conducting research on it.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Deniz Coban, a senior scientist at Turkey's Adnan Menderes University, stressed that eels, which can reach a length up to five feet, choose seas to reproduce and freshwater to live.

Referring to their journey to Bafa Lake, he said the lake, fed by Menderes River, contains alluvium and so is opted by eels.

Also, muddy areas around lakes present an ideal living space to them, he noted.

Coban, however, pointed out that global warming and drought may adversely affect the eels' population.

Those that are unable to reach freshwater areas would have a hard time surviving, he added.

Also talking to Anadolu Agency, fisherman Mustafa Cay underlined that eels are not so popular in Turkey and most of the fish they catch is exported.

* Writing by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara.

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