Announcement of scientific panel to review eels

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The make-up of an independent panel to review scientific information on the status of the longfin eel fishery has been announced by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

"MPI is committed to ensuring the long-term survival of this iconic species” James Stevenson-Wallace, Director of Fisheries Management, said. “The international peer review panel will help provide confidence that decisions on the future management of the longfin eel are based on the best scientific advice available".

Convening an independent review panel was one of several actions that MPI and the Department of Conservation committed to following a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) that raised concerns about the long-term future of longfin eels.

Panel members are:

  • Dr Alex Haro, Principal Investigator and Leader at the S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Centre, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Dr Willem Dekker, Senior Scientist and Project Leader at the Swedish Institute for Freshwater Research of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Nokome Bentley, a New Zealand Scientist and founder of Trophia Limited, a co-operative of independent fisheries scientists.

Three further actions are being pursued. The first is increasing the size of fyke net escape tubes in the North Island to reduce the catch of smaller eels, with this regulation coming into force on 1 October of this year.

The next action is to investigate whether South Island eel stocks could be split into separate shortfin and longfin eel stocks (currently both shortfin and longfin stocks are managed together) to contribute to improved management of longfin eels. Discussions with tangata whenua and eel quota-holders are making good progress.

A further action is addressing the overall protection of the longfin eel, other migratory fish and their habitats, and this work is underway with the Department of Conservation.

A further initiative underway at the local level is being driven by Waikato- Tainui. Waikato-Tainui is proposing bylaws for parts of the Waikato River to improve the availability and size range of eels, and to make it easier for eels to be moved over migration barriers such as dams and weirs. Later this year MPI will ask the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, to consider whether to approve these bylaws.

The panel will convene and hold meetings for a number of days in November, including open sessions with stakeholders. They will then provide a report on their findings towards the end of the year. Ministers will consider the report and decide on management measures that will ensure the long-term survival of the longfin eel. 

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