Journal Article

Status of New Zealand fresh-water eel stocks and management initiatives

Don J. Jellyman

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 64, issue 7, pages 1379-1386
Published in print October 2007 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online June 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Status of New Zealand fresh-water eel stocks and management initiatives

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Jellyman, D. J. 2007. Status of New Zealand fresh-water eel stocks and management initiatives. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 1379–1386.

New Zealand has two main species of fresh-water eel, shortfin (Anguilla australis), which is shared with Southeast Australia, and the endemic longfin eel (A. dieffenbachii). Both species are subject to extensive commercial and customary fishing. The shortfin is the smaller and shorter lived, with typical generation times for females ranging from 15 to 30 years; generation times for longfin females are double this. The distribution and the abundance of both species have been compromised by habitat modifications, shortfins, the more lowland species, being affected by wetland loss, and longfins by weirs and dams. Although there are few concerns about the status of shortfins, there is increasing evidence of overexploitation of longfins, including reduced recruitment, reduction in catch rates, reduction in abundance and average size, and a regional reduction in the proportion of females. Eels are managed under the quota management system, although individual and regional quotas are set from catch histories because biological parameters are inadequate. Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, have been allocated 20% of commercial quota, with additional quota set for customary take. The annual commercial catch of eels has halved over the past decade, and is now ∼700–800 t, shortfins comprising 66% of catches. Recent management developments have included enhancement of upstream waters with juvenile eels, consolidation of processing into fewer but larger units, setting aside of additional reserve areas to increase escapement of silver eels, increased management involvement of Maori, and development of regional management strategies.

Keywords: abundance; Anguilla; exploitation; fresh-water eels; management; Maori; quota; recruitment; status

Journal Article.  5889 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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