Kuwharuwharu Tuna Eels

New Zealanders  have an affinity and deep empathy for endangered species, knowing that most our native creatures are far fewer in numbers than they should be. The fauna of this land are rich and varied, and New Zealanders are all too aware of how many of the native species are endangered.

We think first of the kiwi, at the last count there are 72600 across 5 species (The Okarito Kiwi being the most endangered). Of the Takahe, there are 225, most of which are on Tiritiri Matangi.

We’re aware of how endangered our birds are, of how rare our lizards are.

How aware are you of the Kuwharuwharu Tuna Eel?
Also known as the New Zealand Longfin Eel or Anguilla dieffenbachii.

Tuna eel breed only once in their lifetime. In Autumn the mature female tuna begin a migration from Lake Forsyth (Te Roto o Wairewa) to the Pacific Ocean, up the Kermadec trench to Tonga where spawning takes place. They produce between 1 and 20 million eggs, it is unknown how they are fertilised. The mature eels then die there. Their eggs make their way back to NZ. The eels range from 20 – 60 years old at the time of migration. Though they have been known to live to 106 years old if they do not migrate/breed.

The tuna eel is currently classed as in ‘Gradual Decline’.

They breed only once in their lifetime. If they do not get to the spawning ground, they may never breed.

There is no restriction on harvesting tuna eel. Any eel caught has not had the opportunity to breed. This has a devastating effect on the reproduction rates of the eel which is already considered to be very slow.

In June it was reported by 3news the eel was being used in petfood.

Would you like to know more? Have a look at this great resource by Joseph Potangaroa.



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