Seafood Watch - Seafood Guide

Eel, Freshwater

© Duane Raver
Eel, Freshwater Avoid: Avoid these products for now. These fish come from sources that are overfished or fished or farmed in ways that harm the environment. Unagi Worldwide Farmed

Freshwater Eel, Farmed, Worldwide

Freshwater eel is a popular sushi item and is sold under the Japanese name unagi. Young eels are farm raised after being captured from the wild - a practice that puts more pressure on wild populations that are already in decline.

Consumer Note

Unagi is broiled eel, typically served with a sweet sauce.


Freshwater eel have a unique life cycle: the adults spawn in salt water thousands of miles from the freshwater habitat where their offspring will grow up. Loss of freshwater habitat for eel has caused serious decline in wild populations.

Ninety percent of all eel sold in the U.S. are farm raised. Rather than raising them from eggs, eel farms collect young eels from the wild, a practice that adds pressure to the already threatened wild populations. Eel progress through five stages as they grow, including the "glass eel" stage. These young glass eels are collected from the wild to be raised in farms.

The method of farming used to raise eel is another cause for concern. Open net pens allow waste products, disease and parasites from the farm to flow directly into the surrounding environment - impacting the habitat and the wild eel that live there. In addition, eel need to be fed other fish, depleting wild populations. During their lives, farmed eel will eat twice their weight in wild-caught fish.

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How fish are caught or farmed makes a difference. Fishing boat