Threatened eels becoming pet food
Tue, 26 Jun 2012 7:00p.m.
By Lachlan Forsyth
How important are looks?
Most people don't know that the long-finned eel is just as threatened as many other New Zealand animals, except unlike pigeons, penguins and parrots, eels are damned ugly.
Ugly or not, environmentalists say the fact they're being chopped up for pet food is a national shame.
“Kereru and kiwi have the same threat ranking - imagine if we were exporting those for petfood, or any sort of food," says Massey University ecologist Mike Joy. "People would be marching in the streets about that yet somehow eels slip under the radar.”
“I think it's time New Zealanders said, ‘No, these are too precious and we need to leave them alone,'” says Nic Toki of Forest and Bird.
Eels are hugely significant to Maori. They're literally the stuff of legend, but if populations continue to decline, eels may also become myth themselves.
“I did used to go eeling when I was a kid, but as soon as I found out they can live for a hundred years, that they only breed once in their whole lives somewhere off Tonga, and that their tiny babies make it all the way back to NZ, that was it, no more eeling for me. I’ll just feed them,” Mr Toki said.
“It's obviously not sustainable... and the really sad bit is the market exists because in the USA, Japan and UK, their eels are extinct, on the verge of extinction, so they're buying our eels because they've wiped their own out,” said Mr Joy.
The Ministry of Primary Industries lists long-finned eels as a commercial species, so the slimy, long-lived fish can be caught and sold commercially. Most of the 81 tonnes caught each year is for human consumption - that's been cut from 193 tonnes in 2007.
Petfood companies say they only use leftover guts, bones and skins, but a claim the eel pet food is earth-friendly has disappeared.
“As New Zealanders, we don't want to be marketing our endangered species overseas as a food for pampered pooches,” said Mr Toki.
The ministry says it awaiting further studies before reassessing the long finned eel’s quota. Read their full statement here.
But Forest and Bird's already circulating a petition to stop the long-finned eel fishery, because - let's face it - when you're that ugly, a bit of public support surely won't go amiss.
Watch the video to see Lachlan’s full report.
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24/07/2012 10:59:05 a.m.
Typical double standard of Twig and Tweet (Forest & Bird) - they advocate and support the use of 1080 poison which kills eels. Watch Poisoning Paradise on youTube for more info.
15/07/2012 11:49:41 a.m.
I wholeheartedly agree with this.If you haven't, i'd recommend to go visit the aquarium/wildlife centre in Hokitika, it has a massive "eel city" round tank with hundreds of eels - an awesome thing to see especially when they tell you the age and complex life cycle of those beauties.We don't deserve our clean-green image. We are actually pretty shocking as a nation, we barely recycle in comparison to many other countries we consider "dirty" (such as Asian countries... visit South Korea and look at their structured recycling!) and the only reason we get away with it is our really low population density.We are kidding ourselves that we are clean and green, and we really need to wake up and start sorting it out before we lose this undeserved image.
5/07/2012 1:42:07 p.m.
I'm glad this is finally getting press time. I didn't know about the pet food scandal but the long finned eel issue has been well documented for untold years and is well known throughout the environmental sector. This is a national shame, doesn't do anything for our clean and green image (which impacts on our economy big time), and the concept of anyone eating our endangered species is completely abhorrent to me (regardless of what kind of endangered species they are). The Eel stocks need a chance to recover - 50-100 years or so of no commercial fishing and active protection followed by strict controls and active monitoring or we risk losing them forever and forever is a very long time. Not on my watch please! NZ has already lost too many endangered species. PS: I eat meat and fish, and I have a dog so I believe my viewpoint is quite balanced.
28/06/2012 10:14:46 a.m.
Desmond Heke wrote:
Very sad to see how the quota mgmt system allows commercial expolitation of a taonga. I would like to know who has given them the quota, where it has been purchased from. Could Campbell live follow this up please...maybe under the official information act?
27/06/2012 6:27:35 p.m.
Tiopira H Rauna wrote:
I have had oral interviews with a number of my kaumatua recently. Some are 80 years of age. They lived in Mangatu near Whatatutu, Gisborne where they say the eels in 1950 were 4 feet wide when smoked.
27/06/2012 2:18:20 p.m.
the DR wrote:
we will miss our assets when thay are gone to but but we will probilly get more for our ells one more thing gone out the back door
27/06/2012 7:52:47 a.m.
Ella Gill wrote:
Totally agree Ross. Commercial quotas are just one part of the fight however this is one that we could do now that will help. Some of us, like you, are working on the other issues. Campbell Live would be good to highlight this as well whilst this item is topical.
26/06/2012 8:37:15 p.m.
Ross McWilliams wrote:
I have been working with Wai Care, DoC and other various groups for years now to try and educate others on how special our long finned eels are to our country and no one seems to care or listen. Just because they are 'out of sight' doesn't mean they should be 'out of mind'. The fishing of these eels is not just the problem. It is the pollution of our local streams from industrial work, public and other sources that are a large part of the decline of these eels. 3 News: If you would like more information, feel free to contact me and my team.
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