Freshwater eel fisheries

Fisheries New Zealand manages freshwater eel fisheries under the Quota Management System (QMS). Learn about the QMS requirements for commercial eel fishers.

Management of freshwater eel fisheries

Fisheries New Zealand manages freshwater eel fisheries under the Quota Management System (QMS).

Commercial eel fishers must own annual catch entitlement (ACE) for freshwater eel fisheries. The amount of ACE available to them will depend on the total allowable commercial catch limit we set for that year.

Freshwater eels include:

  • longfin eels – Anguilla dieffenbachia
  • shortfin eels – Anguilla australis

A third species, the Australian longfin eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) also occurs on the North Island, but is not abundant and is managed with shortfin eel stocks.

Eel fisher requirements

Commercial eel fishers must meet QMS requirements relating to:

  • covering catch with ACE or paying deemed values
  • reporting
  • area closures
  • size limits – eels must be between 220g and 4kg in most areas
  • method and gear restrictions.

Fisher agreement to increase longfin stocks

Commercial eel fishers have voluntarily put measures in place to increase the abundance of longfin eels, including agreeing not to land:

  • any migratory female longfin eels
  • longfin eels in Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora).

Eel fishing banned in protected areas

Fishers with ACE have the right to take a certain amount of eels from a particular eel stock. However, they must not fish for eels in protected areas managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

You can sometimes get permission (a concession) from DOC to fish for eels in a protected area – although generally not for reserves or national parks.

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 in 2016, to manage each species separately
  • set new Total Allowable Catch (TAC), Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC), and recreational and customary allowances for all South Island quota management areas to allow for sustainable use while increasing numbers of eels (particularly longfin eels)
  • set new North Island catch allowances in the second half of 2018.

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about freshwater eel fisheries, email

Last reviewed: