Eel is a strange, unique and mysterious species. After long research, it was discovered that it is born in the sea, but it migrates thousands of miles away and grows only in freshwater. Which is the life cycle of these “migrants of the deep sea”? The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is born during the spring season in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Sargasso Sea and the Bermuda Triangle specifically, and it immediately begins a long journey of about 300 days to the coasts of Europe. It spends most of its life in transitional and inland waters across Europe, in rivers, lakes and streams, and then it finds its way back to the ocean to spawn and die.
The first stage of the European eel is that of leptocephalus, during which the young eels take advantage of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift to approach the European coasts, where they transform into glass eels. Once they enter inland waters, they take the form of a small eel (elver), then as they gradually grow up they change into yellow eels (still immature eels, characterized by their yellow color), and finally they become silver eels (adult eels, characterized by their silver color).
Amvrakikos gulf, on the coast of Western Greece, as well as the lagoons of Western Greece, are among the main destinations for the European eel and an ideal place for its development. The fishermen of these blessed fishing grounds painstakingly make the lagoon fences, the so-called “eel lagoon fisheries”, closing the passages with reed fences, and thus managing to mainly catch the male eels. Its processing is done naturally, without preservatives and additives. Some units apply a traditional way of processing, that is, smoking in a wood fired oven, using olive and beech wood.
Eel is endowed with a high nutritional value, since it is rich in omega-3 fats, and it also boasts a delicate sea flavor, an oily texture and unparalleled aromas. Either as an appetizer accompanied by ouzo, tsipouro or white wine, or as a key ingredient in gourmet dishes made by inspired chefs, eel makes a difference at the dinner table. Hard to resist this rare delicacy!
On the other hand, let’s not forget that eel is a critically endangered species and that strict regulations are imposed on its fishing. In Greece, European eel fishing is limited to silver eels, the adult eels that are migrating to the Atlantic Ocean to reproduce· in addition, both fishing and commercial exploitation of eels smaller than 30 cm are completely prohibited.