Researchers want to know: do American eels swim the Raquette River?

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 4:48 PM EDT
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NORFOLK, New York (WWNY) - What’s found in the Atlantic Ocean is also in the St. Lawrence Seaway. And now a group is trying to figure out if the American eel swims the Raquette River.

“It would be similar to a snake in water, but unlike a snake, they are a fish with gills and fins. It’s just that they’re long and slender - tubular as a matter of fact,” said Eric Bergman, Boralex operations manager.

Bergman and Brooke Slag started at 7 a.m. Tuesday searching for an elusive fish. They’re using environmental DNA (eDNA) sample collectors to test 18 areas of the Raquette River to find the DNA of the American eel.

“I think that this study is kind of sampling the area. We try to take samples at places where the eels may be near bouldery or rocky areas, but we’re taking samples wherever we can get them,” said Slag, Gomez & Sullivan Engineers.

Eels are typically found in the Atlantic Ocean and parts of the St. Lawrence Seaway. What scientists are trying to discover right now is if eels go up and down the Raquette River.

Bergman works for Boralex, a Quebec renewable energy company. He says this project is one of the first steps to getting the Sissonvile-Boralex Hydroelectric facility re-licensed.

“We’re invested in the whole package if you will. Not just the generation of electricity, but doing it in an environmentally responsible way. If studies like this for eels are deemed important otherwise through a level of doing, then we’re more than happy to do them,” said Bergman

The study will take 2 years to complete. If successful, scientists may know a little bit more about how these nocturnal, slippery fish can travel such a long journey to the Atlantic every year.