07 August 2014
Reviewing catch limits for longfin eel is crucial, says Environment Commissioner
Reviewing commercial catch limits for New Zealand's unique longfin eel is crucial to the species' survival, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.
However, Dr Wright said she was encouraged by the Government's response to reports showing longfin numbers had been substantially reduced, and its commitment to rebuild the population.
"The Minister has recognised the need to set targets to achieve this and has proposed some practical measures," said Dr Wright.
"This includes a commitment to revise commercial catch limits. Reduced commercial limits overall will be crucial to the survival of this extraordinary and uniquely Kiwi species."
"While the longfin eel is threatened by a combination of habitat loss, fishing and hydro dams, fishing is the one thing where we can have an immediate impact."
Dr Wright also welcomed plans to use broader and better information on the eel population, allowing assessments to be based on improved evidence.
"New Zealand longfin eels are the longest-lived and largest freshwater eels in the world and the top predator in our freshwater ecosystems. They only breed once at the end of their life after a perilous 5000km journey north into the Pacific," said Dr Wright.
"The longfin eel has lived in New Zealand for over 20 million years, and is of great cultural significance to Maori. We have a responsibility to those who come after us to ensure the population can recover and flourish."
"We must not gamble with the survival of a species that is so special. We need to take a conservative approach to looking after them."
A panel of international experts was convened to look into the longfin eel population after Dr Wright raised concerns in a report in April last year. The panel criticised the limited set of information being used to guide management decisions, and recommended a more comprehensive approach be taken.