Scientists Take Steps to Save Japanese Eel

February 16, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. extinction / ɪkˈstɪŋk ʃən / (n.) – the death of an entire species
Example: Human activities can cause the extinction of animal species.

2. delicacy / ˈdɛl ɪ kə si / (n.) – food that is desired because it is rare or costly
Example: Her favorite delicacy is shark’s fin soup.  

3. spawn / spɔn / (v.) – to deposit eggs directly in the water
Example: Many fish spawn in the sea.

4. rear / rɪər / (v.) – to breed and raise animals
Example: Growing up in a farm, he learned how to rear livestock at a young age.

5. attempt / əˈtɛmpt / (n.) – the act of trying to do something
Example:  Their first attempt at cloning the animal was unsuccessful.


Read the text below.
Scientists from the Fisheries Research Agency (FRA) in Yokohama, Japan are in the process of trying to save the nearly-extinct Japanese eels.

In 2013, the species was registered by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment as endangered, or close to extinction. By 2014, it was placed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its Red List of Threatened Species.

Human consumption is one of the causes of the population decline of Japanese eels. Every year, 100,000 tons of eels are consumed in Japan alone as a local delicacy, especially during summer.

Other causes of the alarmingly low population include the overfishing of eels who are too young to spawn, and the eels’ difficulties in accessing their natural habitats. Both activities hinder them from reproducing naturally.

Since 2010, the Japanese government has been actively taking steps to slow down and hopefully reverse the decline in eel population. In 2010, the FRA successfully implemented full-cycle farming of the eel, or raising adult eels from eggs and having them spawn. Five years later, Yoshitsugu Masuda, a senior FRA researcher, announced the successful rearing of newly-hatched eels into glass eels. Previous attempts were not as successful because the weak digestive system of the eels made it difficult to feed them. At present, the team keeps the eels on a semiliquid feed, but its main ingredient, the eggs of Atlantic spiny dogfish, are also decreasing in number.

These initiatives are part of the government’s goal to produce 10,000 young eels using artificial farming by 2016 and establish a stable supply by 2030.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What is the impact of the eels’ endangered status to humans?
·         What human activities can cause species to become endangered? Enumerate as many as you can.

Discussion B

·         What actions can be done to prevent extinction of animals caused by human activities?
·         Should the government lead the effort to prevent extinction of animals? Why or why not?

February 16, 2016