Eels at the Edge: Science, Status, and Conservation Concerns

Management, Research, and Stock Assessment of Anguillids in New Zealand

Peter R. Todd


Abstract.—The New Zealand eel fishery comprises two species, the shortfin eel Anguilla australis and the New Zealand longfin eel A. dieffenbachii. A third species, the speckled longfin eel A. reinhardtii, is present in small numbers in some areas. Major fisheries in New Zealand are managed under the Quota Management System. Individual transferable quotas are set as a proportion of an annual total allowable commercial catch. The Quota Management System was introduced into the South Island eel fishery on 1 October 2000 and the North Island fishery on 1 October 2004. Freshwater eels have particular significance for customary Maori. Management policies allow for customary take and the granting of commercial access rights on introduction into the Quota Management System. Eel catches have remained relatively constant since the early 1970s. The average annual catch from 1989–1990 to 2001–2002 (fishing year) was 1,313 mt. Catch per unit effort remained constant from 1983 to 1989 and reduced from 1990 to 1999. Statistically significant declines in catch per unit effort for New Zealand longfin eel were found in some areas over the latter period. For management, an annual stock-assessment process provides an update on stock status.