It’s no wonder tuna are considered a taonga (treasure), having graced lakes, swamps, rivers and streams in Aotearoa for more than 23 million years. Tuna kūwharuwharu play an important role in Māori culture and have been studied for many generations to determine life cycles, ages, habitat and migration patterns. Female longfins, as they’re commonly known, reach breeding maturity at anywhere up to 100 years of age. They will then swim to Tonga where they lay millions of eggs before they die. They can grow to be more than 2 metres long, making them the largest eel in the world. This eel is endemic to New Zealand and is also our top freshwater predator which makes them extremely important to the biodiversity of our waterways. Sadly, eel populations are now declining, and they are considered an ‘At Risk’ species. The main cause of the decline has been human activity: pollution, deforestation, hunting, dams and culverts are all threats. The longfin eel sure does have a lot to deal with these days.
The longfin eel is a truly amazing creature and we hope that by getting involved in our volunteer or educational days or using these resources you, your students or youth group will come to love the tuna as much as we do.
Conservation Volunteers New Zealand are working on a number of stream restoration projects across NZ that protect the habitat of the longfin eel through riparian plantings, fencing, invasive weed control and litter clean ups. We have also partnered with Mobil Oil New Zealand (MONZ) on longfin eel education in Auckland and Wellington since 2017. This partnership has a particular focus on education of the longfin eel, it’s threats and what we can do to help this often misunderstood species.
Support from MONZ allows us to engage with children across Auckland and Wellington on educational days that not only teach the kids, their parents and teachers about the eel but offers them a chance to partake in an activity that makes a meaningful difference to their habitat. An educational day involves a talk about the eel, it’s habitat, lifecycle, threats and how we can help. We then conduct water quality testing on the site and depending on the time of year, we plant trees, remove invasive weeds or do a litter clean up to protect the eel’s habitat.
To date, we have engaged thousands of school age children on dozens of projects which have not only educated children and encouraged protection of the eel but has also planted thousands of trees and collected litter from our waterways.
These educational resources will help you understand more about these special creatures, their lives, threats and what we can do to help them. Dive right in and enjoy!