Simulation of the Impact of Dams and Fishing Weirs on Reproductive Potential of Silver-Phase American Eels in the Kennebec River Basin, Maine


J D. McCleave

Publication Date



American eel, Anguilla, Anguilla rostrata, eels, eggs, fecundity, fishing, hydroelectric, hydroelectric dams, impact of dams, Kennebec River, Maine, migration, model studies, mortality, spawning, survival, weir

Journal or Book Title

North American Journal of Fisheries Management


I modeled the cumulative impact of hydroelectric projects with and without commercial fishing weirs and water-control dams on the production, survival to the sea, and potential fecundity of migrating female silver-phase American eels Anguilla rostrata in the Kennebec River basin, Maine. This river basin has 22 hydroelectric projects, 73 water-control dams, and 15 commercial fishing weir sites. The modeled area included an 8,324 km2 segment of the drainage area between Merrymeeting Bay and the upper limit of American eel distribution in the basin. One set of inputs (assumed or real values) concerned population structure (i.e., population density and sex ratio changes throughout the basin, female length-class distribution, and drainage area between dams). Another set concerned factors influencing survival and potential fecundity of migrating American eels (i.e., pathway sequences through projects, survival rate per project by length-class, and length–fecundity relationship). Under baseline conditions about 402,400 simulated silver female American eels would be produced annually; reductions in their numbers due to dams and weirs would reduce the realized fecundity (i.e., the number of eggs produced by all females that survived the migration). Without weirs or water-control dams, about 63% of the simulated silver-phase American eels survived their freshwater spawning migration run to the sea when the survival rate at each hydroelectric dam was 90%; 40% survived at 80% survival per dam, and 18% survived at 60% survival per dam. Removing the lowermost hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River increased survival by 6.0–7.6% for the basin. The efficient commercial weirs reduced survival to the sea to 69–76% of what it would have been without weirs, regardless of survival rates at hydroelectric dams. Water-control dams had little impact on production in this basin because most were located in the upper reaches of tributaries. Sensitivity analysis led to the conclusion that small changes in population density and female length distribution had greater effects on survival and realized fecundity than similar changes in turbine survival rate. The latter became more important as turbine survival rate decreased. Therefore, it might be more fruitful to determine population distribution in basins of interest than to determine mortality rate at each hydroelectric project.







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