A University of Otago scientist wants no-catch zones
created for longfin eels and says the Government is not acting
quickly enough to protect the species.
Assoc Prof Gerry Closs said commercial fishing of the species
should be banned in certain areas to provide refuge
''It's a management approach that has been well tested in
marine reserve systems,'' Prof Closs said.
''It is probably the simplest and most reliable way to
protect long-lived single-spawning species such as longfin
The Government recently announced measures to improve the eel
population, including reviewing catch limits, separating
longfin and shortfin eel stocks, introducing abundance
targets and getting better information from the commercial
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the measures
followed a review of information on the fishery by an
independent panel, which found the fishery in recent years
had been stable and in some cases longfin eel numbers had
''At this stage, the scientific information does not support
a closure of the fishery.''
Prof Closs said the lack of detail and immediate action was
''Some simple things, such as separating South Island long
and shortfin stocks, are simple, and should and could be done
''There doesn't seem to be any sense waiting to implement
It would be difficult to accurately measure target abundance
levels without a significant improvement in monitoring over
He believed it would be ''far simpler and prudent'' in the
short to medium term to identify no-catch zones for longfin
eels to provide a refuge for populations.
''To some extent, the national parks provide a refuge, but
they are generally in higher-altitude, low-productivity
colder areas,'' he said.
''Done really well, we might end up with a higher abundance
and catch of eels simply by creating reasonably extensive
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) inshore fisheries
manager Steve Halley said more detailed engagement would
occur with tangata whenua and stakeholders this year,
especially around catch limits or separating the stocks.
Formal public consultation was proposed for next year with
implementation from October 1, 2015.
The MPI Eel Science Working Group would carry out work in
2015-16 to set abundance target levels.
''The setting of target levels will help to provide greater
certainty to tangata whenua and stakeholders about how catch
limits will change in the longfin eel fishery.''
MPI was working with the industry on ways to improve the
information from the commercial fishery, he said.
''MPI is supportive of the work the South Island eel fishery
has already voluntarily implemented to improve fine-scale
monitoring of the fishery.''
A South Island Eel Industry Association spokesman said the
Independent Review Panel could find no scientific evidence to
suggest that the longfin eel fishery, commercial or
customary, was unsustainable.
''The minister is therefore correct to state that the
scientific information does not support a closure of the
Commercial eel fishermen were providing data which would
greatly improve the information base for all freshwater
There were other factors which affected eel productivity, he
''These include reduced water quality, wetland drainage, and
''Commercial fishermen actively advocate for improved longfin
eel habitat but these efforts are not recognised by those who
wish to close the fishery.''