Eels Returning in Greater Numbers to Staten Island Bluebelt

The Staten Island Bluebelt channels stormwater through natural treatment, sustaining native flora and fauna, and creating a beautiful space for local residents.

There is an abundance of new snacks in the creeks of Staten Island — if you like eels.

Eel populations, which had been declining in East Coast rivers in recent years, are making a comeback: Large numbers of them are arriving from the Sargasso Sea, north of Puerto Rico, and they are here a month earlier than normal.

Chris Bowser, an educator for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, has been monitoring eel numbers in upstate tributaries of the Hudson River for five years as part of the agency’s American Eel Research Project.

With the larger number of eels and the cleaner creeks in Staten Island, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has joined the study and set up a testing site in Richmond Creek, in central Staten Island near La Tourette Golf Course.

Standing by the creek, in a woodsy area of South Richmond known as the Staten Island Bluebelt, Mr. Bowser showed a two-foot-long eel to groups of students from a local Cub Scout pack and from the New York Harbor High School on Governors Island. He also showed a bucket of finger-length youngsters he called glass eels.

The eel, popular as bait and food, is crucial to the food chain in Staten Island creeks. More than a dozen creeks drain into the Arthur Kill and Raritan Bay.

The influx is a testament to the cleaner conditions in the creek, said Dana Gumb, an official with the city’s environmental agency.

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