A man caught dumping eels from two large garbage bags into Prospect Park Lake was likely releasing an invasive species that could damage local ecosystems, New York Daily News reports.
Last week, the man was caught dumping the eels from the plastic bags late in the day by fisherman Dominick Pabon, who videoed the strange scene.
Pabon asked the man, ""Yo, you're not supposed to be dumping eels here dude — is that all eels?" to which the man said he was just trying to save lives.
"You're killing other life in here, the eels are not supposed to be here," Pabon replied.
The man, who appeared flustered, repeated what he had were not eels and said he had got them from the store and was trying to save their lives. The video and images shot by Pabon show it was eels being released.
State environmental officials said the eels were likely Asian swamp eels, an invasive species that disrupt American aquatic systems. Asian swamp eels thrive in freshwater and are a serious threat to New York's biodiversity, damaging lake habitat and killing off native fish and wildlife.
The Department of Environmental Conservation said it was impossible to remove all the eels from the lake, but authorities would keep an eye on the water during surveys and remove any eels spotted. The department said the eels would likely not survive the winter.
The DEC said eels had been illegally dumped in the past in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Kissena Park, both in Queens. The eels released in these illegal dumpings were not to be confused with native American eels, that enter the Hudson River each spring, the department said.
"These (American) eels arrive in estuaries each spring as tiny transparent 'glass eels' and may spend a decade or more along coasts, rivers and streams before migrating back to the Sargasso Sea north of Bermuda to spawn," DEC Environmental Educator Chris Bowser said.
"American eels are vital to the ecosystem, both as a food source for many animals, but also as a top predator in their own right as they mature."