In New Zealand, a recent study has shown that council-owned pumps, some of which were installed many years ago, are killing native eels.
Both the New Zealand longfin eel (Anguilla dieffanbachii) and shorfin eel (A. australis) are affected.
Eels are chopped up as they swim through the turbines, with mortality of up to 100% for eels >60 cm (2 ft) in length, which means the loss of many migratory females that are up to 100 years old and carrying millions of eggs.
All of the eels that survived were smaller males and the pumps themselves could also be limiting access to upstream habitats.
The good news is that there is a new, eel-friendly version of the pumps in testing and $1.5 million in funding has been approved for a three year trial.
Preliminary results show that 29 out of 30 eels were able to swim through the new pumps.
This came from a series of posts I made to the EelTown.org Facebook group during Christmastime, freshwater eels in movies, television, cartoons and video games. There are many more examples like these, but not every example has a convenient YouTube clip. I will work on posting more, but it will take some time to extract the clips with Adobe Premiere, plus I have to make sure I’m following the law re: “fair use”. If you have more clips to add, or additional information on any of these examples, please post a comment. This is the longest original article I’ve posted here yet, hope you enjoy!
Note: There are thousands of examples of other kinds of eels in media, especially marine eels (moray, conger, wolf, gulper and other eels), electric “eels” (which are actually knifefish), lampreys, etc. Since this site focuses on freshwater eels I am not including those, except for one example at the very end that I couldn’t resist. Also, quality varies from one video to the next, but this is unavoidable unless the copyright holders decide to post a higher quality version.
Eels in Film
Zlati Uhori (1979). Title literally translates to “Golden Eels”. There is a European eel (Anguilla anguilla) at about 42:10. According to IMDB, this was adapted from a novel about life in Czechoslovakia during WWII and made into a TV movie.
From 1984, here’s the “Dinner of Doom” scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It’s hard to see exactly what kind of eels these are, but since the cuisine is from India, it’s likely they’re supposed to be Indian mottled eels, Anguilla bengalensis bengalensis.
“Excuse me, could we have an eel?”. From the movie Withnail and I, 1987.
Eels mentioned in Rush Hour, 1998. See also this part where Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) finds out he is eating eel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAmeMF1b_jU. (Would have liked to organize these clips a bit better, but I don’t own the movie and these were the best I could find.)
The “Lake Scene” from Love Actually (2003). Although no eels are actually shown, it does include the dialogue: “There better not be eels in here!” “Don’t disturb the eels!”
“Why are there so many fish in France?”
From the TV movie Temple Grandin (2010). Eels are mentioned at the end and even included in Temple’s sketches.
Made in China is a Korean film released in 2014. According to the description on IMDB:”It’s David versus Goliath when a man, Chen, uncovers a corporate conspiracy involving eels tainted by mercury. As he sneaks into South Korea to investigate, Chen finds a connection with a woman named Mi.”
Eels in the film A Cure for Wellness (2017). No audio in this clip. Probably not good for people with a fear of drowning. I have not seen this movie and have no idea why this guy was locked in a tank with eels, but according to one reviewer, the eels are the best thing about this movie: http://www.horrorhomeroom.com/eels-best-thing-cure-wellness/. I’m told they show up in a few other scenes too, including one involving a bathtub, but thus far there are no clips of this on YouTube.
Eels in television
“Quick, Niles! Start killing eels!”
“The Innkeepers” episode of Frasier, originally airing on May 16th, 1995. This is not the full episode, just a series of clips, possibly for copyright reasons. Several mentions of eels, the chef’s specialty is Anguilla and a table full of restaurant critics want to try it. One of the funniest eel-related clips I’ve ever seen.
Friends. “The One with Unagi” episode, originally airing February 24th, 2000. (No eels are actually shown, but Phoebe is the one character who knows that unagi means freshwater eel). Only the first scene shows the discussion of the word, the rest of the clip is more about Ross’s false sense of situational awareness.
The “Wildboyz” go to New Zealand and discover some longfin eels at about 1:20 in. This episode originally aired on December 7th, 2003. The on-screen text shows the wrong name for New Zealand longfin eel, it should say Anguilla dieffenbachii but instead they put Anguilla reinhardtii, which is actually the scientific name for Australian longfin eel.
The clip purports to show an eel biting down on this man’s finger but there is no “death roll” by the eel, I would guess these fish are regularly fed at that location and only looking for a morsel of food, not to actually attack him.
“In this story, a fishing community lives near a lake and has depended on eels from time immemorial. A fishing corporation has gained a monopoly on the eels in the lake (probably a sound, not a lake). A local group of men are caught poaching eels and go on trial.” (H/T Paul Thompson for this description.)
Eels in Animation
Animated eels in The Water Babies 1978. (They first appear about 8 minutes in, I think their last appearance is at around 11 minutes.) Seems kind of dark for a kid’s movie, although I haven’t seen the entire film. Based on the art style and accents, these appear to be European eel (Anguilla anguilla).
From the show “Flint the Time Detective” (shown 2000-2001; based on the Japanese manga-turned-anime Jikū Tantei Genshi-kun (時空探偵ゲンシクン), Dino (the eel) and Mite (the frog) are the henchmen of Petra (right).
The “Dueling Eds” episode of Ed, Edd and Eddy. At 8:40 in, join Rolf with the eels of forgiveness. This was a rather bizarre show for kids, with this episode originally airing on December 14th 2001. Video is only 1/4 screen, presumably because the uploader does not hold the copyright.
Spongebob and Patrick play a game of “Eels and Escalators” (basically Chutes and Ladders). This episode originally aired on March 21st, 2003. In one episode Patrick says this is his favorite game, although in another episode he says it is Parcheesi.
An earlier episode of Spongebob (Your Shoe’s Untied, November 2nd, 2000) featured what appeared to be a yellow-stage Anguillid eel inside the Krusty Krab. Spongebob asks her for help in tying his shoes, but she says she is an eel and doesn’t wear shoes. (Photo only as I could not find a decent quality clip to share).
Eel pie on The Simpsons, from Treehouse of Horror XV, November 7th, 2004. Quality is not great, looks like someone filmed it off their TV. Eel pie references at 1:30 and 5:40 in, turns out this is Chief Wiggum’s favorite food.
Eels on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If you’ve never seen this show before, it’s the kind of humor geared to appeal to teenage boys and will probably seem stupid/offensive to everyone else. This episode originally aired on December 13th, 2009. The eels show up near the end.
The Eel, The Weasel and the Vulture. This was a short film that premiered in NYC in 2017.
This was made in Germany for Christmas 2017, featuring many jokes on the word “aal” (German for eel). H/T Aquaflo Steinovic for posting this one.
Eels in Video Games
An eel is the end-level boss in stage two of the Commodore Amiga game Apidya, (C) Play Byte (1992). The artwork makes species identification ambiguous but the water lily (genus Nymphaea) confirms this is freshwater. Screenshot from a YouTube video by Ironclaw of longplays.org.
Starting in 1996, Nintendo has featured eels in their Mario games. It’s questionable what kind of eels these are however, because their appearance and behavior suggest a Moray eel and Nintendo has referred to this character as “Maw-ray” in some places. On the other hand, Nintendo has also called it Unagi (Japanese for freshwater eel, Anguilla japonica) so perhaps they have taken some creative license here. There’s a few other eel-like characters in the clip too, so decide for yourself what they represent.
American eel (Anguilla rostrata) are featured in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series. There are many games in this series, but it appears the eel first appeared in Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest) for the N64 in 2001, (which was re-released as Animal Crossing for the Game Cube the same year) followed by Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005), Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008) and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012). It may appear in other games too, please post a comment if you know more.
Catching an American eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Rapala Pro Bass Fishing for the XBox 360, released September 28th, 2010 by Activision.
In 2015, Sega used eels to promote the game Alien: Isolation.
Eels in the video game Prey, (C) 2017 Arkane Studios. It takes place on an alien planet, but they are listed as being in the genus Anguilla at one point. (They are also available as sushi or in jellied form.) See a discussion about them on the Steam Community forums here and more gameplay footage here.
Here’s the Bay Watch “Eel Nino” episode (November 10th, 1997). This does not actually feature a freshwater eel, it looks more like a moray but is described as an electric eel (which, long time eel residents will recall, is not a true eel at all). But isn’t it worth it to see David Hasselhoff save people from a 20ft long, killer eel?
(Outputs from the first International Eel Science Symposium)
Following the success of the 1st International Eel Science Symposium, held at ZSL London Zoo, in May of this year the conveners are now producing an eel text based on the sessions and outputs from the symposium.
They are working with the well-known publishers 5M on the production of the book. 5M also own the excellent Fish Site (www.thefishsite.com), which is a great information hub on all things fish.
Initially seven broad sections have been identified for the book; these are set out below but are no way exhaustive or fixed at this point in time.
Challenges of managing eels in a global context
Species and Regions
Cultural context. The cultural importance of the eel in places such as the Pacific Islands, Polynesia, New Zealand as well as across Europe and the USA.
Biology and Genetics
Threats to Global Eel Populations. This chapter will cover a range of topics including, barriers, passage and entrainment, eel health, climate change impacts etc
The book will open with a general introduction on the challenges of managing the global stock of eels before looking at each region and species in more detail.
In order to make the book as relevant, and broad as possible, the editors would like to invite additional submissions from people who are working with any of the 16 species of freshwater eels.
If you would like to contribute a short chapter on a particular species/region the editors would love to hear from you, this could be done independently or with partners in other parts of the range.
The book will include as many black and white photos, figures and diagrams as needed and also a colour plate section.
If you would like to submit your study for inclusion in the book we are looking for expressions of interest no later than Monday 8nd January 2018. The editorial panel will then review all potential submissions and make a final decision on inclusion by 31st January.
The deadline for final submission of the manuscript will be Friday 1st June 2018 and we aim to have a completed final draft with the publishers by 30th November 2018.
We feel that this book will be an important publication and will prove a useful resource for anyone interested in or studying eels around the globe, and we hope you would like to have your work included.
One of the posters on our Eel Town Facebook Group, Sal Hobbsie, showed me the following mural by Gwil, a New Zealand artist:
I reached out to Gwil to ask him for the story behind this mural, and here is what he wrote:
“Hi Nick, Thanks for getting in touch mate. Well the Eel party mural is part of a series of walls where myself and a couple friend have been painting aquatic life around the eastern suburbs of Wellington. It is part of a community initiative that Wellington Electricity lets us paint on a range of their substations and they supply us with materials. All the locations are areas we grew up around which makes painting them an honour for us and hopefully the surrounding communities can enjoy them. If their was a message it would be relevant to any of the walls – To revere and celebrate our aquatic animals