While counting birds and searching for stranded sea turtles, Jace Tunnell found an American eel on a Texas beach.
Tunnell, a reserve director at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, shared a video of his finding on his YouTube channel. During the video, posted by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve YouTube channel, Tunnell explains that he found the creature near the high tide line in the morning. He says that he believes the eel was female due to its size.
“This is basically as big as they get,” Tunnell exclaimed in his video, as reported by NBC5 DFW. “This thing is massive; it’s got to be like four feet long.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that American eel females can grow to be four feet long, while their male counterparts only reach one and a half feet. Tunnell explained that while the eel he found on the beach may have been too big for fishing, people often use smaller American eels for bait. Additionally, Tunnell says in the video that females often die after spawning offshore, during which they can lay up to four million eggs.
Tunnell also explained that the life cycle of these animals has been thrown off due to the creation of dams in their habitats. When not spawning, American eels live in freshwater rivers and estuaries that can be blocked by dams. He said that there have been ideas about how to modify dams to accommodate the American eels being harmed.
“Thinking about how we can bring those types of ideas to reality would be a great initiative for protecting species such as this,” Tunnell said.
Tunnell does weekly surveys of the beaches on Mustang Island and posts some of his more interesting finds on his YouTube channel and Facebook page. During recent trips, he has rescued a hammerhead shark, found an octopus, and even discovered a deceased roseate spoonbill.