Wild New Zealand eels are unsuitable for the lucrative but fastidious Japanese market. If farmed from glass eel, our shortfins are acceptable. The fat content is higher, taste not so muddy and the skin is sufficiently thin. The size of harvested eels can be controlled into the tight sub 200g band of grades required.
Whilst the Japanese have bred their eels (Anguilla Japonica) at huge cost using space age technology, they are not even close to doing this commercially. For many years, probably decades, eel farming will require live glass eels caught in the wild.
Glass Eel Fishery for Farming
Glass eels are minute c. 60mm long and much thinner than whitebait. They go approximately 6,000 to one kilogram.
Worldwide, glass eel fishing utilises:
Fine mesh fyke nets
Hand held fine mesh dip nets. To view a video of this technique Click Here.
Ramp traps (such as that used by EECo on the Karapiro dam, to read more Click Here).
Rigid framed traps
Pibalour or push trawling fine mesh nets on each side of a vessel. To view a video of this technique Click Here.
A number of iwi see merit in exploring this opportunity and considerable work is being planned to look at the annual quantities of glass eels available and how sustainability might be guaranteed or preferably, enhanced.
Many stakeholders seem to be taking the view that direct glass eel export would be unacceptable and that a substantial part of the farming process should be completed locally.
Any future fishery for glass eels would have to be (legally) managed under the quota management system. This would require some innovative regulatory and management initiatives.
The global eel farming industry is large (c. $3bp.a.) and glass eels could be a much more lucrative and sustainable fishery than the status quo.