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where do eels come from? February 22, 2006 5:09 PM,10117,18245416-23109,00.html

Eels' mating secrets revealed

AN ancient mystery surrounding the Japanese eel, a species as prized by fishermen for its high price as it is by chefs for its delicate flesh, has been explained at last.

Like its Atlantic cousins, the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) matures in freshwater but then migrates out to sea to spawn - but where this act is carried out has, until now, been an enigma.

The answer, said a Japanese ocean researcher, lies in a tiny triangle of the Pacific Ocean about 2000km east of the Philippines, near underwater mountains west of the Mariana Islands.

As a result of surging demand and disruption to its reproductive cycle, catches of this species have fallen by three-quarters in the past 30 years, according to figures of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

The price of Japanese eel has soared in the past decade, prompting importers to turn to cheaper European eels to meet demand.

In turn, this has encouraged dangerously unsustainable catches of European elvers, known as "glass eels" because they are transparent for the first few years of their life.

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