On a pathway to extinction? An investigation into the status and management of the longfin eel
At the end of a long life, longfin eels leave their freshwater homes to journey for thousands of kilometres north through the Pacific to breed somewhere near Fiji. The eggs hatch into transparent leaf-like larvae which drift on ocean currents all the way back to New Zealand. The larvae turn into tiny "glass eels" and begin to swim up rivers and streams.
Glass eels become elvers and these small, wriggling, slender fish continue to swim upstream in shoals until they find a place to call home. Here they stay and grow for many years until heeding the call to breed. Then an almost magical transformation takes place to prepare them for their great sea journey and their heads become streamlined, their eyes turn blue, their bellies turn silver.
Over recent years, concern about the future of the longfin eel has been expressed by a variety of people and groups, including freshwater biologists and many Māori. The Department of Conservation lists the species as ‘At risk/Declining’. This investigation is a response to those concerns.