Eels are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world and have been incorporated into many different cuisines. But say you’re stuck out in the wild and looking for your next meal, how useful will an eel be to you? Let’s find out.
Are There Eels In The USA?
The only freshwater eel in America is the American Eel. This eel species can only be found in North America and is currently on the red list as an endangered species. Due to the construction of dams and urbanization, these eels are mostly stuck upstream and cannot get past the powerful turbines found at the end of the rivers.
It’s important to note that the American eel is currently endangered due to their habitats being invaded by humans and our various urbanization creations. But our generation isn’t solely to blame for the decrease in their population.
Between the 70s and 80s, the American eel fishing industry harvested between 2.5 million and 3.6 million pounds of eel annually. Since then, they’ve had to shrink this number significantly in order to allow the eels enough time to reproduce. Scientists have reported a 50% drop in the population of American eels over the past decade.
Due to the warranted concerns about overfishing these water creatures, I’d highly recommend that you steer clear of American eel products unless the situation calls for it.
Where Do American Eels Live?
American eels tend to hide during the day and only come out at night. They can be found in the waters around Arkansas but have been known to explore further, being spotted in Mississippi, White, St. Francis, Ouachita, and Red rivers.
They usually like to swim around larger open bodies of water but will occasionally be found in streams or shallow water.
Is It Safe To Eat American Eel?
Raw eel is poisonous. Eel blood is deadly, and the smallest amount is enough to kill a person. The toxic protein within their blood can cause severe muscle cramps that will affect the heart.
As well as the danger of their blood, there have been reports of a new parasite in some of the eels inhabiting the waters from Texas up to Canada. This parasite is called Anguillicoloides Crassus and is transferred from the crustaceans eels like to eat.
Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids, and the way that they fold together determines the shape and form of the eel as well as the way that they function. By cooking the eel properly, the proteins will unfold and remove any toxins or parasites in their meat, so you are fine eating a cooked eel should you ever need to do so.
What Does American Eel Taste Like?
One of the best ways to cook an eel is to smoke it. Smoking it will maintain all the natural flavor and will leave the meat nice and soft.
The texture of eel meat is soft yet slightly firm. The aftertaste isn’t too fishy, and it is only somewhat chewy. The meat is very absorbent of any other flavors you add. Eel meat can be compared to that of catfish or salmon when comparing taste.
Preparation of eel is simple, and the meat can be smoked, grilled, or stewed. Their meat is quite versatile and easy to prepare out in nature.
Eel Nutritional Value
Eel is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, omega-3, and several minerals.
100g of eel will provide 100% of the recommended value for vitamin A and B12. The vitamins help support your immune system, produce energy, and maintain eye health. Eel is among the rarer meats that will provide you with a healthy source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the skeletal system and your immune health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the general upkeep of a healthy body. One 100g serving of eel will provide you with 838mg of omega-3 and one fillet of eel, 1333 mg.
Eel is also an excellent source of dietary protein and provides 23.7 g of protein per 100g serving. That’s roughly 37.6g of protein per fillet (159g). These numbers are equivalent to what you would get from eating chicken or other meats.
Is Eel High in Mercury?
Mercury levels in the fish that we eat have become concerning in recent years, but eels have been proven to have some of the lowest levels of mercury out of all seafood/fish alike. You’d be safer eating eel than a can of tuna when it comes to mercury levels.
As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the fish and the shorter its lifespan, the less mercury it will absorb.
Can American Eels Kill You?
Eels can be treated similarly to medium or large fish. Eel skin is covered in a thick layer of mucous that is incredibly slippery and difficult to get off your hands once you’ve caught it.
Although they do bite, eels are nonvenomous but will put up an impressive fight when hooked.
The only time you need to worry about your safety when it comes to eel is when you’re thinking of eating it as eels aren’t very feisty creatures when it comes to catching them. The only time you’ll ever be at risk from an eel is when you’ve cooked it improperly and the meat is still raw.
In conclusion, the American eel is an excellent food source for omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals and can be very delicious when cooked properly. It’s highly recommended that you only eat eel when you know that it has been appropriately cooked and sustainably sourced.
When in the wild, these creatures will make a delicious meal that is highly nutritious and easy to prepare.