Sampling event

Oceanic migration of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu

Latest version published by Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node on 05 June 2024 Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node

Download the latest version of this resource data as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) or the resource metadata as EML or RTF:

Data as a DwC-A file download 6 records in English (8 KB) - Update frequency: not planned
Metadata as an EML file download in English (18 KB)
Metadata as an RTF file download in English (16 KB)


Information on oceanic migrations and spawning areas of tropical Pacific freshwater eels (genus Anguilla) is very limited. Lake Letas and its single outflowing river, Mbe Solomul on Gaua Island, Vanuatu, were surveyed for large migrating individuals. Twenty-four Anguilla marmorata (87 to 142 cm), 39 A. megastoma (50 to 131 cm), and 3 A. obscura (119 to 126 cm) were caught. Seven individuals were tagged with pop-up satellite transmitters and released offshore. One A. marmorata migrated 843 km towards the South Equatorial Current. The tag surfaced only 330 km from the point where the smallest leptocephalus has been captured so far. Tags on A. megastoma and A. obscura popped up within the archipelago.

Data Records

The data in this sampling event resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 6 records.

2 extension data tables also exist. An extension record supplies extra information about a core record. The number of records in each extension data table is illustrated below.

Event (core)

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Schabetsberger R, Økland F, Aarestrup K, Kalfatak D, Sichrowsky U, Tambets M, Dall’Olmo G, Kaiser R, Miller P I (2024). Oceanic migration of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu. Version 1.0. Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. Samplingevent dataset.


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 58eada0b-0178-454a-a823-45205d42f9fd.  Southwestern Pacific Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Node publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by Ocean Biodiversity Information System.




Robert Schabetsberger
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Department of Cell Biology, University of Salzburg
5020 Salzburg
Finn Økland
  • Originator
The Norwegian Institute of Nature Research
7047 Trondheim
Kim Aarestrup
  • Originator
Denmark Technical University
8600 Silkeborg
Donna Kalfatak
  • Originator
Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation
Port Villa
Ursula Sichrowsky
  • Originator
Department of Limnology, University of Innsbruck
6020 Innsbruck
Meelis Tambets
  • Originator
Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu
Mäealuse 14
12618 Tallinn
Giorgio Dall’Olmo
  • Originator
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
PL1 3DH Plymouth
Roland Kaiser
  • Originator
Department of Cell Biology, University of Salzburg
5020 Salzburg
Peter I. Miller
  • Originator
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
PL1 3DH Plymouth

Geographic Coverage

Vanuatu and surrounding ocean

Bounding Coordinates South West [-15.717, 166.587], North East [-8.77, 173.016]

Taxonomic Coverage

Eels, genus Anguilla

Species Anguilla marmorata, Anguilla megastoma, Anguilla obscura

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 2012-02-02 / 2012-05-02

Sampling Methods

Between 17 January and 2 February 2012, Lake Letas and its outflow were surveyed for silver eels by electrofishing, hooks, hook and line, and fyke nets in collaboration with fishermen from Gaua. The research team (R. Schabetsberger, F. Økland D. Kalfatak, U. Sichrowsky, M. Tambets) then anaesthetized, photographed, and measured the fish before they were either released (17 including tagged fish) or sacrificed (49) and given to local families.

Study Extent Gaua Island (Banks Group, Vanuatu) is the emerged top of a 3000 m high and 40 km wide stratovolcano. The symmetrical cone of approx. 25 km diameter is truncated between 500 and 690 m altitude by an 8.5 × 6 km central caldera. Its active volcano Mt. Garet (979 m a.s.l., 350 m high, base 3 km) towers over the crescent-shaped Lake Letas (100 m depth, 7 × 2 km, 418 m a.s.l.), which is constantly fertilized by the inflow of nutrient-rich, warm volcanic springs. Oxygen is available all the way to the deepest point (100 m), and abundant invertebrate life provides rich food resources (Schabetsberger unpubl. obs.). Migrating eels leave the lake through the outflowing Mbe Solomul River. It falls over a 120 m high cascade (Siri Falls) and bifurcates into 1 larger (18 m3 s−1) and 2 smaller rivers (0.9 and 6.1 m3 s−1) before entering the sea. Flow rates increase significantly during heavy rain. According to the experience of local fishermen, eels predominantly leave Lake Letas during heavy rains and north-westerly winds between January and March but may emigrate throughout the year. A tropical depression hitting the island on 24 January 2012 yielded silvering eels in the lower stretches of the flooding river several days later.

Method step description:

  1. Total length, distance from lower jaw to anus, to dorsal fin, and to gill opening, as well as length of mouth and length of pectoral fin were measured with a measuring tape to the nearest mm. Horizontal and vertical eye diameter was measured to the nearest 0.1 mm with ruler callipers. Weight measurements were taken on a Voltcraft HS-30 balance to the nearest 10 g. All eel species were determined through analysis of body proportions and dentition of the upper jaw (Ege 1939, p. 248–251). Colouration of the total body and the relative size of the eyes (Okamura et al. 2007) were used to classify silver eels. The stomachs of 7 Anguilla marmorata (4 yellow/3 silver) and 13 A. mega stoma (9/4) were opened and checked for contents.
  2. During the last 3 days of fishing operations, 7 eels with a silvery appearance (1 Anguilla marmorata, 4 A. megastoma, 2 A. obscura) were caught for tagging by local fishermen at the banks of the main river below Siri Falls, where fish are frequently found in shallow water after plummeting over the cascade. The single A. marmorata was caught near the mouth of the river. The tags were put on 3 different species, because we were unable to catch enough silver eels of the original target species A. megastoma. Due to the strong current that prevented the use of other fishing gear, the animals were pulled out from littoral hiding places with metal hooks mounted on wooden poles and pushed into hand-nets, resulting in minor skin lesions (ca. 1 cm) behind the anus. The small wounds were not treated with antibiotics, nor were they sutured to avoid the inclusion of anaerobic germs (F. Økland pers. obs.).
  3. After measuring, 2 types of satellite pop-up transmitters were deployed. Two eels were tagged with Mini-Pats (Wildlife Computers, Type 1), and the remaining 5 individuals, with X-tags (Microwave Telemetry, Type 2). Type 1 tags were provided for free by the manufacturer, and Type 2 tags were refurbished with new batteries after use in a previous project. The Type 1 tag is 11.5 cm long (excluding antenna), 40 mm wide and weighs 53 g in air. The Type 2 tag measures 12 cm in length, is 32 mm wide, and weighs 42 g.
  4. The tags were pre-programmed to surface after 3 mo assuming that the eels spawn north of Fiji and migrate with a speed of approximately 15 km d−1, based on the discovery of leptocephali east of Gaua (Kuroki et al. 2008) and the migration speed of similar-sized Anguilla dieffenbachii (Jellyman & Tsukamoto 2002). In case of premature death of the host or detachment of the tag, the transmitters were programmed to initiate a failsafe release mechanism, ascend to the surface, and transmit data. A depth reading deeper than 2100 m (pressure transducer sensor range exceeded) or 4 d of equal depth readings (±10 m) would initiate this mechanism.

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Schabetsberger, R., Økland, F., Aarestrup, K., Kalfatak, D., Sichrowsky, U., Tambets, M., Dall’Olmo, G., Kaiser, R. and Miller, P.I., 2013. Oceanic migration behaviour of tropical Pacific eels from Vanuatu. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 475, pp.177-190.

Additional Metadata

marine, harvested by iOBIS