We’ve got a bad f-eel-ing about this.
A mystery man was seen dumping over 100 live, squirming eels into the Prospect Park lake on Sunday night.
Parkgoers say they witnessed the man dragging two large trash bags through the park near the Vanderbilt Street entrance at around 7:30 pm when one of the bags split open, and its greasy contents spilled out onto the lawn.
“One of them split open and all these eels were on the ground,” said Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident Andrew Orkin, who witnessed the incident after a jog. “They were fully alive, wriggling.”
Witnesses say the mystery man, who dressed in white clothes that resembled a cook’s uniform, began to dump the eels into the lake, while confused onlookers questioned him.
“No exaggeration, it had to be at least 100 eels,” said fisherman Dominick Pabon. In a video taken by Pabon, the man can be heard saying he bought the eels from a store and is “rescuing” them as he dumps them into the lake.
“I just want to save their lives!” he shouts.
“You’re killing other life here! Eels are not supposed to be here!” Pabon yells back.
Witnesses called the police, but the man had disappeared by the time authorities arrived.
Pabon, a Sunset Park resident who has been fishing in the park for 13 years, says the eels looked similar to ones he’s seen in seafood markets, and were likely saltwater eels, as some of them attempted to free themselves from the freshwater lake.
“They were trying to swim back out of the lake, it was crazy,” he said.
Releasing animals into the park is illegal and dangerous, according to the Prospect Park Alliance, the stewards of Brooklyn’s backyard.
“It is a hazard both to those animals, and the plants and wildlife that call the park home,” said alliance spokesperson Deborah Kirschner. “The parks waterways and natural areas are fragile habitats, and this can disrupt these naturally occurring systems, introducing disease and other pathogens which can be harmful.”
According to Riverkeeper, fines for illegal dumping in waterways range from $1,500 to $10,000 for the first violation, and not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000 for each subsequent violation.
This isn’t the first time a non-native species has been introduced to the lake. The abundant Red Eared Slider turtles seen in almost every corner of the lake are an invasive species introduced to the city by the pet trade, and Pabon says other illicit fish and eels have been dumped, and are disrupting the ecology of the waterway.
“It’s destroying the whole ecosystem,” he said. “The fishing has been getting slower and slower.”