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Contamination, parasitism and condition of Anguilla anguilla in three Italian stocks

Abstract

In conjunction with habitat loss and overfishing, pollution and parasitism are believed to be relevant causes of collapse of Anguilla, as these can affect eel swimming ability and the development of gonads and embryos. The present study investigated Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) concentrations, infection levels of Anguillicoloides crassus, lipid content and gonad abnormalities in eels sampled in 2007–2008 in three Italian water bodies (Caprolace Lake, Lesina Lagoon and Tevere River) that vary in salinity, trophic condition, contamination level and fishing pressure. Our analysis revealed that low-to-moderate levels of contamination and parasitism were not associated with gonad abnormalities in Caprolace Lake and Lesina Lagoon. On the contrary, POP concentrations and abundances of swim bladder nematodes were remarkably high in eels from the heavily urbanized Tevere River and were associated with significant gonad and swim bladder alterations. Contamination and infestation levels were so high to potentially impair spawner successful migration and reproduction. POP concentrations in Tevere eels also exceeded levels considered safe for food consumption. Though marginally contaminated, eels from the oligotrophic Caprolace Lake were in critical health condition: their lipid reserve was so low as to be considered insufficient to sustain the energetic costs of the transoceanic migration. Lesina eel stock was the only one displaying relatively good quality but here spawner abundance is likely limited by overfishing. Our results suggest that multiple stressors may potentially affect eel reproductive success. More definitive studies are needed to assess whether health effects caused by these multiple stressors are additive, compensatory or synergistic.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research—PRIN Project 2006 (n. 2006054928): “An Integrated Approach to the Conservation and Management of the European Eel in the Mediterranean Region”. Thanks are due to Dr Milvia Chicca (Department of Biology and Evolution, University of Ferrara) for the English revision of the manuscript. The authors are very grateful also to the referees and the associated editor for their constructive criticism and suggestions that helped to greatly improve the paper.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Silvia Quadroni.

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Quadroni, S., Galassi, S., Capoccioni, F. et al. Contamination, parasitism and condition of Anguilla anguilla in three Italian stocks. Ecotoxicology 22, 94–108 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-012-1006-0

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Keywords

  • Anguilla anguilla
  • POP bioaccumulation
  • Parasitism
  • Lipid content
  • Gonad alterations
  • Ecological and sanitary risk