Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Anguilla japonica
(Japanese eel)



Anguilla japonica (Japanese eel)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Anguilla japonica
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Japanese eel
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Overview
  • Anguillid eels are classified into fifteen species and three subspecies on the basis of skin colour, morphometric characters, dentition, and vertebral counts (

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Anguilla japonica Temminck & Schlegel, 1847

Preferred Common Name

  • Japanese eel

Other Scientific Names

  • Anguilla japonicus

International Common Names

  • English: eel; eel, Japanese; freshwater eel
  • Spanish: anguila; anguila japonesa
  • French: anguille du Japon
  • Russian: yaponskiy ugor'
  • Chinese: bái shàn; mán lí; mán yú; rí ben mán lí

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: enguia
  • China: bái shán; bat sin; mán lí; man ue; mán yú; rí ben mán lí
  • China/Hong Kong: bat sin; man ue
  • Finland: Japaninankerias
  • France: anguille du Japon
  • Germany: Asiatischer Aal; Japanischer Aal
  • Iceland: Japansk ål
  • Italy: anguilla giapponese
  • Japan: kabayaki; unagi
  • Korea, Republic of: paen-jang; paen-jang-o
  • Netherlands: Japanse paling
  • Philippines: casili; igat; kasili; ubod
  • Poland: wegorz japonski
  • Portugal: enguia-japonesa; enguila japonesa
  • Russian Federation: yaponskiy ugor'
  • Spain: anguila; anguila japonesa
  • Sweden: Japansk ål
  • Thailand: pla lai yee pun
  • Turkey: Japon yilan baligi
  • Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro): jegulja japanska

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Anguilliformes
  •                         Family: Anguillidae
  •                             Genus: Anguilla
  •                                 Species: Anguilla japonica


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Anguillid eels are classified into fifteen species and three subspecies on the basis of skin colour, morphometric characters, dentition, and vertebral counts (Ege, 1939; Castle and Williamson, 1974). Two species are found in the northern Atlantic region and the remainder in the Indo-Pacific zone. Eels are divided into long-finned and short-finned forms on the basis of the ano-dorsal length (distance between the verticals from the beginning of the dorsal fin to the anus) relative to the total length (TL, expressed as a percentage). Thirteen species and subspecies are long-finned, and the remainder are short-finned. The Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica, is a catadromous fish which naturally spawns in the tropical Pacific Ocean west of the Mariana Islands (Tsukamoto, 1992). After hatching, the leaf-like larvae (the leptocephali) are transported by the North Equatorial Current and Kuroshio Current from the spawning ground to the continental shelf of Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan. Larvae then metamorphose into glass eels in the coastal waters and become pigmented elvers in estuaries (Tesch, 1977). The migration of eel larvae from the spawning ground to the estuary takes approximately 6 months (Tzeng, 1990; Tzeng and Tsai, 1994; Cheng and Tzeng 1996). The elver becomes a ‘yellow eel’ in rivers, where it may live for several years until maturation (Tzeng et al., 2000). At the onset of maturation, the yellow eel metamorphoses into a ‘silver eel’ and migrates back to the spawning area to spawn and die (Tesch, 1977; Han et al., 2003). Recent studies of eel otolith microchemistry have indicated that a portion of the eel population does not migrate to inland freshwaters during the growth-phase (yellow eel) stage. Instead they grow in seawater until they become maturing silver eels, before migrating to spawn (Tzeng et al., 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003; Tsukamoto et al., 1998, 2001; Jessop et al., 2002).

Japanese eels are highly valued because of their high unit production, high survival rate, strong disease resistance and high nutritional quality (Liao, 2001). The culture of Japanese eel first emerged in the swampland of the eastern part of Tokyo, Japan in 1880. Driven by the high incomes from eel culture, production increased significantly and its large profits became the main force behind the eel industry. Eel culture subsequently expanded into other regions such as China, Taiwan, and South Korea (Korea Republic), quickly followed by commercial-scale production (Satoh et al., 2001). Eel is considered to be a delicacy in only a limited number of European and Asian countries. In Asia, Japan is the dominant market that consumes most of the regional eel supply, although many other countries are promoting local consumption to expand their domestic markets. At the present time, however, an unstable supply of elvers, insufficient suitable culture sites, land and freshwater resources and a geographically restricted market restrain further significant development of the eel aquaculture industry.