Freshwater eel fisheries
Find out about the requirements for eel fishers, sustainability work that's being done, and our research and data.
Freshwater eels in New Zealand
There are 2 main eel species in New Zealand:
- longfin eels – Anguilla dieffenbachia
- shortfin eels – Anguilla australis
A third species, the Australian longfin eel (Anguilla reinhardtii), also lives in the North Island. It isn't very common. We manage them as part of shortfin eel stocks if they get caught during commercial fishing.
Using the Quota Management System
We manage freshwater eels under the Quota Management System (QMS). This sets the yearly catch limits.
Requirements for commercial eel fishers
Commercial eel fishers need to own annual catch entitlement (ACE) to catch freshwater eels.
Owning more ACE means that you can catch more eels. The amount of ACE someone can get depends on the commercial catch limit that we set for eels that year.
Fishers can't take eels from land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). However, DOC will occasionally give permissions to do it.
Keeping eel fishing sustainable
We're creating a national plan for managing longfin eels. It will update the framework for managing eels among different fishing groups.
In recent years we've also:
- divided South Island eel stocks into shortfin and longfin stocks to manage each species separately
- set new North Island catch allowances
- set new total allowable catch, total allowable commercial catch, and recreational and customary allowances for all South Island quota management areas. This will allow for sustainable use while increasing numbers of eels (particularly longfin eels).
Fisher agreement to increase longfin eels numbers
Commercial eel fishers have voluntarily agreed to make changes to increase longfin eel numbers. This involves not taking any:
- migrating female longfin eels
- longfin eels from Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora).
Even if commercial eels fishers have ACE for eels, they can't take any from protected areas. DOC manages protected areas.
It's possible sometimes to get permission (a concession) from DOC to fish for eels in these areas. When this happens, it's not generally for reserves, national parks, and certain rivers.
The limit for taking eels is 6 per person, per day. This can be either longfin eels, shortfin eels, or a mix.
Our eel research and data
The Fisheries Assessment Plenary has stock status reports for different species. Information on eels is in Volume 1 (see page 367).
Who to contact
If you have questions about freshwater eel fisheries, email email@example.com