Longfin Eel, Longfinned Eel
Maori name: Tuna.
The New Zealand Longfin Eel is one of the largest eels in the world. They are slow growing and may reach 100 years of age or more. Females can grow to two metres in length.
When they are ready to breed at maybe 20 or 30 years old, they travel huge distances to the sub-tropical Pacific Ocean near Tonga where they then die after spawning. Their larvae drift all the way back to New Zealand on ocean currents, where the then tiny glass eels turn into baby elvers and make their way inland via rivers and lakes (and even overland in damp areas). Eels are great climbers and have been known to climb waterfalls up to 40 metres high.
Eels hunt at night and have a great sense of smell, using their tubular nostrils that extend above their top lip.
Found: Only in New Zealand, around the country in lakes and rivers.
Conservation status: At Risk - Declining.
Threats: Pollution, loss of vegetation near their habitat, building of dams and overfishing. Commercial fishing has had a big impact on the number of eels, and large (probably fertile females) are unfortunately scarce.
You can find three species of fresh water eels in New Zealand, and at Paradise Valley Springs we have the longfin on display. The other common eel in New Zealand is the shortfin. Compared to the shortfin, a longfin eel's top/dorsal fin extends a lot further forward than it's bottom/anal fin. Longfins are generally darker in colour, and their skin has large wrinkles when bent.