Longfin Eel (2020)
Date Published: June 2021
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Longfin Eel occurs along the entire eastern Australian coastline, from Cape York Peninsula to TAS, and is also found on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Genetic studies indicate a single biological stock for eastern Australia, but, due to the absence of a cross-jurisdictional stock assessment, the species is assessed here at the jurisdictional level. Longfin Eel is classified as undefined in QLD, and sustainable in NSW, VIC, and TAS.
Stock Status Overview
Catch, nominal CPUE
The Longfin Eel has a wide species distribution that extends the entire eastern Australian coast from Cape York to Tasmania, and is also found at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island [Beumer and Sloane 1990]. The stock structure was investigated via a microsatellite genetic study, and the results indicated a single panmictic biological stock along the east coast [Shen and Tzeng 2007]. However, there is currently no cross-jurisdictional stock assessment undertaken for the shared stock, so this assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria
The Victorian Eel Fishery catches both Longfin Eel and Southern Shortfin Eel, which have different but overlapping distributions in estuarine and freshwaters east and south of the Great Dividing Range. Commercial fishing is generally confined to lower and estuarine reaches of waters that are open to fishing and predominantly targets migrating eels.
The Victorian Longfin Eel Fishery, which is managed as one stock, supports both recreational and commercial fisheries. The status of the Victorian Longfin Eel fishery has been evaluated using catch and nominal CPUE for the commercial eel fishery.
From 1979–80, annual catch increased to a peak of 56 t in 2004–05. The Millennium Drought (2001–11) affected Longfin Eel catch less than that of Southern Shortfin Eel. Fishing pressure (effort) increased dramatically in the late 1990s but declined into the early 2000s, after which it was variable from year-to-year. In the last two years effort has been low. The number of licenses has declined steadily since the early 1990s.
Nominal CPUE during the 1980s averaged 6.6–6.3 kg per net-day but following a peak of 25.5 kg per net-day in 1990–91, CPUE has steadily declined. Since 2000–01 CPUE has continued to decline and over the last decade has been low but stable, fluctuating between 0.24 and 1.79 kg per net-day.
Juvenile and undersized eels (elvers and “snigs”), known as “restock”, are netted from coastal rivers and relocated into designated culture lakes (confined lakes and impoundments) in inland western Victoria for on-growing to market size under an Aquaculture Licence. This practice, which commenced in the 1960s, is dependent on access to restock eels. Productivity from culture lakes is highly susceptible to short and long term and seasonal environmental variations, particularly drought [Victorian Fisheries Authority 2017].
There is no long-term estimate of recreational harvest of Longfin Eel in Victoria but it is believed to be very low. In recent surveys of recreational fishing licence holders, less than 0.4 per cent of anglers fishing in rivers and lakes preferred to catch eels and just 2.6 per cent indicated their favourite fish to catch was eel [Australian Survey Research 2012, Australian Survey Research Pty Ltd 2018].
Eel is an important resource for some Aboriginal communities. The use of fish traps, channels and aquaculture systems (ponds and dam walls) in western Victoria dates back tens of thousands of years [Head 1989, Richards 2011]. However, there are no catch statistics for the Aboriginal harvest of eels from Victorian waters.
Despite strong environmental drivers that can severely reduce productivity, the Victorian Longfin Eel fishery is well-managed using a range of input controls and at least thirty per cent of all connected rivers, creeks and streams with a common opening to the sea are closed to commercial fishing. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. The above evidence also indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.
On the basis of the evidence described above, Longfin Eel in Victoria is classified as a sustainable stock.
[Walsh et al. 2003, 2004]
|Species||Longevity / Maximum Size||Maturity (50 per cent)|
Females: 52 years, 165 cm; Males: 22 years, 62 cm
Size at migration: females 74–142 cm; males 44–62 cm
|Traps and Pots|
|Hook and Line|
|Customary fishing permits|
New South Wales – Recreational (catch totals) Estimate from Murphy et al. , based on a survey of Recreational Fishing Licence households.
New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing).
Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing
Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.
- Australian Survey Research 2012, Improving Inland Recreational Fishing Survey Report. DPI: Fisheries Victoria. Australian Survey Research Group Pty Ltd, Ormond, Victoria. 89 pp.
- Australian Survey Research Group Pty Ltd, September 2018, Victorian Fisheries Authority Recreational Fishing Survey 2018
- Beumer, J, and Sloane, R, 1990, Distribution and abundance of glass-eels Anguilla spp. in east Australian waters. Internationale Revue der gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie 75: 721-736
- Hall, KC, 2020, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020 - NSW Stock status summary - Longfin Eel (Anguilla reinhardtii), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour.
- Head, L 1989, Prehistoric Aboriginal impacts on Australian vegetation: an assessment of the evidence. Australian Geographer 20(1): 37-46.
- Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, ACT
- Hoyle, SD, and Jellyman, DJ 2002, Longfin eels need reserves: modelling the effects of commercial harvest on stocks of New Zealand eels. Marine and Freshwater Research 53: 887-895.
- Inland Fisheries Service, Tasmanian Inland Recreational Fishery Management Plan 2018-28
- Murphy, JJ, Ochwada-Doyle, FA, West, LD, Stark, KE and Hughes, JM, 2020, The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
- Pease, BC 2004, Description of the biology and an assessment of the fishery for adult longfinned eels in NSW. FRDC Final Report for Project No. 98/127. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla, New South Wales, 167 pp.
- Purser, J., Cooper, P., Diggle, J., Ibbott, T. Tasmanian Eel Industry Development and Management Plan, FRDC Project No 2012/208
- Richards, T, 2011, A late nineteenth-century map of an Australian Aboriginal fishery at Lake Condah. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2:64-87.
- Schnierer, S and Egan, H, 2016, Composition of the Aboriginal harvest of fisheries resources in coastal New South Wales, Australia. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 26:693-709.
- Shen, K-N, and Tzeng, W-N, 2007, Population genetic structure of the year-round spawning tropical eel, Anguilla reinhardtii, in Australia. Zoological studies 46: 441-453.
- Taylor, S, Webley, J and McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide recreational fishing survey. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland
- Teixeira, D, Janes, R, and Webley, J 2021, 2019–20 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey Key Results. Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.
- Victorian Fisheries Authority 2017, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2017 Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1.
- Walsh, CT, Pease, BC, and Booth, DJ 2003, Sexual dimorphism and gonadal development of the Australian longfinned river eel. Journal of Fish Biology 63(1): 137-152.
- Walsh, CT, Pease, BC, and Booth, DJ 2004, Variation in the sex ratio, size and age of longfinned eels within and among coastal catchments of southeastern Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 1297-1312
- Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide recreational fishing survey 2013–14. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland
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