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The eel catch in Japan has decreased substantially partly because of construction of dams on rivers and artificial shorelines on lakes, according to a new study.

The nationwide eel catch in the early 1970s exceeded 3,000 tons a year, but it had dropped to around 600 tons in 2004, the study conducted by Kenichi Tatsukawa and others shows.

Tatsukawa said eel numbers have decreased because dams have blocked their movement in rivers and because their habitats in lakes have been destroyed by concrete shorelines.

Eels could disappear altogether from Japan unless measures are taken to improve their living environments, Tatsukawa said.

The study shows that the rate of decline in eel catches is more pronounced in rivers where dams hold large reservoirs. The rate of decline is less in lakes with mainly natural shorelines.

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