Project Summary

Challenge: Bring together non-profit, First Nations and provincial partners for the first major American Eel restoration effort since the Ontario government’s recovery strategy was published for this iconic fish.

  • Identify the optimal placement of an eel passage at the Carillon dam near Hawkesbury.

  • Trap, tag, document and transfer 400 juvenile eels from downstream of the current dam.

  • Train nearby residents to identify and report American Eels.


The mysterious American Eel is an iconic fish in the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario basins. American Eels once accounted for 50 per cent of all nearshore fish in Lake Ontario, but populations have declined by 99 per cent since the 1970s.

Today, the American Eel is an endangered species in Ontario and protected under the federal Species at Risk Act.

Dams are one of the leading reasons for the decline of the American Eel. Dams prevent adult eels returning to the ocean and prevent juvenile eels from entering the Great Lakes system to mature.

Now with support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Ottawa Riverkeeper is poised to reclaim 200km² of eel habitat by creating a fish ladder at the Carillon Dam near Hawkesbury, Ontario.

Ottawa Riverkeeper selected the Carillon Dam site because it sets an example for collaborative American Eel restoration efforts around the Great Lakes. This is the first high-profile American Eel restoration effort since the release of the Ontario government’s American Eel recovery strategy in 2017.

Phase I of this Great Lakes Challenge project ensures the appropriate research is completed before the eel ladder construction in future project phases.