Longfin Eel: Are We At Risk Of Losing Mysterious Creature?

Long-living, incredibly agile and the largest of their kind, longfin eels are one of the world’s most incredible yet still mysterious fish species.

If you think that would be enough to keep them out of harm’s way however, then unfortunately, you’re thinking wrong. Despite years of conservationists and scientists pushing for a moratorium on their exploitation, longfin eels are still commercially fished and exported overseas.

As a result, their numbers have greatly dwindled in the last few years.

Creature of mystery

For many, varied reasons, eels are very strange and mysterious creatures. For one thing, they look more like snakes than they do fishes and they’re also incredibly smooth. Heck, one species is even electric and dangerous. They also travel very far distances to lay millions of eggs before dying. These eggs will then hatch and trace their mother’s journey back, where they will grow and repeat the cycle again.

What’s not mysterious at all however, is how for many longfin eels, life doesn’t go as planned. That’s because every year, thousands of them are caught in nets and sent overseas to be eaten.

Then there’s also the dam problem, no pun intended. See, no matter where it is, a longfin eel will always decide to go downstream once it’s ready to populate. However, this presents the problem of them going back to dams they previously scaled, meaning that most of them end up getting chopped to pieces by the turbine. Those who survive are not without critical injuries as well.

This has led to a massive decline in their numbers.

"They're like all of our native fish, they're declining and we don't know how much they're declining," says Dr Mike Joy, a freshwater ecologist and environmental researcher at Victoria University of Wellington.  "We, as in freshwater ecologists, know that elver recruitment is way down, and we're seeing them in fewer places.”

According to scientists, the time to act is now, and the best way to start is to stop commercially harvesting them, as losing them will just put the demand onto another animal. Worse still longfin eels are endemic to New Zealand, meaning that if they lose them, everyone else will, forever.

eel-228748_960_720 An eel. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)