Against a backdrop of competing cultural and commercial interests, Canadian regulators will soon spin the wheel on the future of the little-understood American eel.
Lighting the hissing naphtha lamp mounted at the front of his metal canoe, Kerry Prosper prepares for a midsummer eel hunt on Nova Scotia’s Pomquet Harbour. It’s just past sunset, and the conditions are perfect, with warm air gently rolling off the bay and smoothing the water’s surface to glass. Prosper timed tonight’s trip with the new moon; eels get skittish when there’s too much light. Even lightning scares them into hiding.
Pushing off the shore, Prosper stands at the front of the boat, using both the forked metal and blunt wooden ends of a three-meter-long spear to navigate along the shallows; he’s part gondolier, part kayaker. The bright lamp tints the water an eerie, glowing green as he scours the rocks and sand for an eel’s serpentine silhouette. Spotting one, he slows the boat, steadies the spear’s tines above the surface, and plunges downward. The impaled eel coils, Medusa-like, around the metal and wood. Prosper pivots and shakes the fish into a plastic crate in the middle of the boat, where it lashes wildly.