Longfin Eel (2020)

Anguilla reinhardtii

  • Karina Hall (NSW Department of Primary Industry)
  • Steven Brooks (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Klaas Hartmann (University of Tasmania)

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.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Tasmania Tasmania Sustainable

Catch, spatial limitations

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Stock Structure

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

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Stock Status


In Tasmania the freshwater eel fishery catches adult Southern Shortfin Eel and Longfin Eel. The fishery is primarily focused on Southern Shortfin Eel, with Longfin Eel typically constituting less than five per cent of the harvest by weight.

The commercial fishery is managed by the Inland Fishery Service (IFS) with 12 commercial fishing licences that restrict operators to geographically defined areas. Fishing is not permitted in an extensive region in Tasmania including the World Heritage Area and 99 per cent of rivers. Harvesting of juvenile eels is prohibited through application of a minimum legal size limit. Regular commercial catch estimates are not available but have historically ranged between 30 t and 70 t per annum for both species combined [Purser et. al. 2014]. Consequently the Longfin Eel component of the catch is likely to be under 5 t per annum.

Recreational eel fishing is limited by a bag limit, possession limit and minimum legal size limit which apply to both species. Estimates of recreational catches are unavailable [IFS 2018].

The IFS supports the fishery and the stock through annual catch of juvenile eels during their annual upstream migration and relocating these above stream structures. Eel ladders and dam bypasses to assist eel migration have continued to be developed by IFS and Hydro Tasmania. 

Eel catches across both species are reported to have remained consistent over decades, with most of the fluctuation in catches due to changes in the commercial fishing sector and fluctuating market demand. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

Longfin Eel is a small proportion of the Tasmanian eel catch. Tasmania is at the extreme end of the species' distribution and there is a naturally low abundance. A substantial portion of Tasmania's waterways are protected from eel fishing including those in the World Heritage Area where there are also fewer barriers to eel migration. Existing management restrictions have successfully maintained catches of both species at a consistent level (although data available to assess this is limited). This evidence indicates that the currently level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Longfin Eel in Tasmania is classified as a sustainable stock.

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[Walsh et al. 2003, 2004]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Longfin Eel

Females: 52 years, 165 cm; Males: 22 years, 62 cm

Size at migration: females 74–142 cm; males 44–62 cm

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Fishing methods
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Tasmania
Bag and possession limits
Spatial restrictions
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

New South Wales – Recreational (catch totals) Estimate from Murphy et al. [2020], 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.

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Catch Chart

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  1. Australian Survey Research 2012, Improving Inland Recreational Fishing Survey Report. DPI: Fisheries Victoria. Australian Survey Research Group Pty Ltd, Ormond, Victoria. 89 pp.
  2. Australian Survey Research Group Pty Ltd, September 2018, Victorian Fisheries Authority Recreational Fishing Survey 2018
  3. 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
  4. Hall, KC, 2020, Status of Australian Fish Stocks 2020 - NSW Stock status summary - Longfin Eel (Anguilla reinhardtii), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour.
  5. Head, L 1989, Prehistoric Aboriginal impacts on Australian vegetation: an assessment of the evidence. Australian Geographer 20(1): 37-46.
  6. Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and indigenous fishing survey. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, ACT
  7. 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.
  8. Inland Fisheries Service, Tasmanian Inland Recreational Fishery Management Plan 2018-28
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Purser, J., Cooper, P., Diggle, J., Ibbott, T. Tasmanian Eel Industry Development and Management Plan, FRDC Project No 2012/208
  12. Richards, T, 2011, A late nineteenth-century map of an Australian Aboriginal fishery at Lake Condah. Australian Aboriginal Studies 2:64-87.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Taylor, S, Webley, J and McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide recreational fishing survey. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane, Queensland
  16. Teixeira, D, Janes, R, and Webley, J 2021, 2019–20 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey Key Results. Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.
  17. Victorian Fisheries Authority 2017, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2017 Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 1.
  18. 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.
  19. 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
  20. 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

Downloadable reports

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