They live a remarkable life.
Small tuna (eels) stay in the lower reaches of rivers for the summer months, before travelling upstream until they find a suitable place to call home – be it a stream, a marsh or a lake.
There, they will take up residence until they become adults – a typical life span being 20-60 years for the females and 12-25 years for the males.
Their residence does come to an end though. All freshwater eels share a common tropical saltwater ancestor, and instinct sends them on a 5-6 month migration to an area somewhere between New Caledonia and Tonga. After one act of breeding, the adults die.
Eel larvae then spend 7-10 months at sea, drifting in the currents until they reach NZ’s coast between Aug – Oct. After metamorphosis and acclimatising from salt to fresh water, they enter the freshwater system as elvers. They live a remarkable life.
AOTEAROA ENDEMIC TUNA Aotearoa is blessed to have two species of endemic tuna (the Māori word for eel). The longfin eel is rare and at-risk due to pollution, dams, loss of vegetation and overfishing.