Longfin Eels threatened with extinction

Longfin Eel, Photo: Alton Perrie

Longfin Eel, Photo: Alton Perrie

Habitat is reduced: Over 150 years of European settlement, tuna habitat has been reduced enormously as over 90% of wetlands have been destroyed, and the construction of hundreds of dams and weirs has blocked upstream migration by young eels.

Remaining habitat is polluted: Longfin eels evolved in the clean water of bush clad streams and rivers. What habitat remains has largely been altered as hills—cleared of bush for farming—progressively erode and smother the stony stream beds with silt. Animal faeces, agrichemicals, fertilizers, municipal effluent and industrial waste are pouring into our rivers in unprecedented amounts.

For forty years, under the management of the Ministry of Fisheries, commercial eel fishermen have been allowed to overexploit the eel resource: Eels were drafted into QMS after 30 years of intensive and virtually unregulated exploitation.These days, very few large longfins are seen, sex ratios are worryingly skewed and elver numbers are markedly less than in former times.

The longfin population is now dangerously reduced and may be approaching reproductive tipping point—recent conservation measures implemented by the Ministry are too little, too late.