Satellite data and assimilation products are used to investigate fluctuations in the catch of Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) in eastern Asian countries. It has been reported that the salinity front has extended farther south, which has shifted the eel's spawning grounds to a lower latitude, resulting in smaller eel catches in 1983, 1992, and 1998. This study demonstrates that interannual variability in the eel catch is strongly correlated with the combination mode (C-mode), but not with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. These eels continue to spawn within the North Equatorial Current (NEC), but the salinity front shifts south during a canonical El Niño. On the other hand, the spawning grounds accompanied by the salinity front extend farther south during the C-mode of climate variability, and eel larvae fail to join the nursery in the NEC, resulting in extremely poor recruitment in East Asia. We propose an appropriate sea surface temperature index to project Japanese eel larval catch.
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