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Baby eels get help migrating through Delaware's Inland Bays

A Sussex migratory pathway for baby eels sagged earlier this week, prompting local scientists to fix it quickly.

Scientists from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays used new clamps to straighten out a flooded plastic pipe at Burton's Pond in Sussex County on Tuesday. In a video on the center's Facebook page, environmental scientist Andrew McGowan shows the length of the pipe which stretches through the dam. Besides installing new clamps, scientists also had to punch holes in the pipe to drain excess water.


It was a simple fix, said Marianne Walch, the science and restoration coordinator for the center. She said the eels should be resourceful enough to wiggle through the tube to cross the dam into freshwater where they will grow and mature.


“All they need to make it from the estuary to the top of the dam is a simple tube of some sort that has a little bit of texture inside it,” Walch said. “The eels are able to crawl up that textured surface and dump themselves at the top of the dam into the stream."

Baby eels are born in the ocean. From January to March, they migrate back to freshwater streams and tend to pop up in the Inland Bays. 


The eelway at the Burton's Pond dam between Lewes and Millsboro is one of three in the Inland Bays watershed that open up about 85 miles of freshwater streams previously blocked by dams to eels, Walch said. It was installed in October 2017.


The center has been using these tubes in other eel-heavy locations like Millsboro Pond and Betts Pond since the early 2000s. 

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