The oceanic migration of silver Japanese eels starts from their continental growth habitats in East Asia and ends at the spawning area near the West Mariana Ridge seamount chain. However, the actual migration routes remain unknown. In this study, we examined the possible oceanic migration routes and strategies of silver Japanese eels using a particle tracking method in which virtual eels (v-eels) were programmed to move vertically and horizontally in an ocean circulation model (Japan Coastal Ocean Predictability Experiment 2, JCOPE2). Four horizontal swimming strategies were tested: random heading, true navigation (readjusted heading), orientation toward the spawning area (fixed heading), and swimming against the Kuroshio. We found that all strategies, except random swimming, allowed v-eels swimming at 0.65 m s−1 to reach the spawning area within eight months after their departure from the south coast of Japan (end of the spawning season). The estimated minimum swimming speed required to reach the area spawning within eight months was 0.1 m s−1 for true navigation, 0.12 m s−1 for constant compass heading, and 0.35 m s−1 for swimming against the Kuroshio. The lowest swimming speed estimated from tracked Japanese eels at sea was 0.03 m.s−1, which would not allow them to reach the spawning area within eight months, through any of the tested orientation strategies. Our numerical experiments also showed that ocean circulation significantly affected the migration of Japanese v-eels. A strong Kuroshio could advect v-eels further eastward. In addition, western Pacific ocean currents accelerated the migration of navigating v-eels. The migration duration was shortened in years with a stronger southward flow, contributed by a stronger recirculation south of Japan, an enhanced subtropical gyre, or a higher southward Kuroshio velocity.
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