What protected NZ species is being sold as pet food?

What native species is as endangered as Great Spotted Kiwi is being sold as cat food? Longfin eels deserve protection from being killed for upmarket cat food. Populations of longfin eels are declining and the species is at risk of extinction yet they have no legal protection in New Zealand and they can still be caught commercially. Commercial fishers can currently catch up to 82 tonnes of long finned eels annually which is how some of them end up as cat food. Long finned eels are endemic to New Zealand – only found in NZ. Longfin eels or Tuna, are a taonga species. They are an important indicator of ecosystem health as they are an apex predator. Check out the awesome short documentary Longfin by Lindsey Davidson and Melissa Salpietra.

Longfin from Science Communication on Vimeo.

Eels exhibit many factors which make them vulnerable to overfishing. They are relatively large, long-lived, and slow-growing, with late sexual maturation and often with a limited geographic range. What’s more Eels only breed once after an epic migration downriver and across the Pacific to near Tonga. After they spawn they die.

Despite long finned eels being at risk of extinction, they are allowed to be caught commercially. In the South Island there is no differentiation between the at risk longfin eel and the common shortfin eel. The total allowable catch for eels under the Quota Management System, encompasses both species.

Commercial fishing is not the only threat to our awesome longfin eels. Longfin eels live higher up the catchment and hydro projects mean they can’t make their epic breeding journey out to sea. Much of their habitat has been severely impacted by agriculture, wetlands have been drained, rivers channelised creating a degraded habitat that is polluted by intensive agricultural practices.

Legal protection for our unique long finned eel is long overdue. Maanaki Tuna has organised a beautiful tapestry which is travelling New Zealand schools with classes adding to it to help protect tuna.

5 Comments Posted

  1. Tragically, even when there are laws designed to protect endangered species they are often not enforced as well as they should be. Someday we will all pay the price for all this greed, waste and mismanagement.

  2. Think you need to change the title on this one as you say they’re ‘protected’ then go on to say “have no legal protection”. There’s a few too many capital letters in there as well.

  3. Perhaps this is a dumb question but to put the comparison it in terms I can understand, how many tonnes of Great Spotted Kiwi currently live in New Zealand?

    Also, are there particular kinds/brands of cat food or other products that are known to include it? Or does it all go overseas?

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