Factors influencing the downstream passage of European silver eels (Anguilla anguilla) through a tidal sluice

Jeroen B.J. Huisman*, Leander Höhne, Reinhold Hanel, Henry Kuipers, Peter Paul Schollema, Leopold Nagelkerke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Tidal sluices are a frequent element in the tidal regions of Europe's rivers and may hinder downstream migrating European eels Anguilla anguilla. Sea level rise will reduce the possibility for tidal sluices to freely discharge water, further compressing windows of opportunity for the passage of eels. Understanding how eels utilize the discharge events of tidal sluices and which conditions facilitate successful passage is pivotal for the design of effective fish migration measures. To investigate eel migration at a tidal sluice, acoustic receivers were placed at the tidal sluice Nieuwe Statenzijl and in its tributary of the Westerwoldse Aa, the Netherlands. Of the 30 tagged eels, 26 eels reached the tidal sluice and passage success was 100%. The mean migration speed of eels in the unobstructed part of the tributary was slow (0.14 m s−1). The eels were delayed in their migration by the sluice and delay was right-skewed distributed with most eels showing moderate delays (<2 days), while about 10% of the tagged individuals experienced extensive delays of more than 3 weeks. The number of missed sluicing events prior to successful passage was influenced by biological characteristics such as migration speed in the tributary, weight and condition. In addition, sluicing events with rapidly increasing and high maximum discharge levels increased the success rate of an individual eel to pass the sluice. Compromising sluicing duration in favour of higher and faster increasing discharge could facilitate eel migration at tidal barriers and contribute to the recovery of this endangered species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-356
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number2
Early online date13 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • European eel
  • fish migration
  • passage behaviour
  • tidal barriers
  • tidal sluices


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