The history of Maori and eel (tuna) are intertwined.
In past times, tuna were gravely important to Maori for subsistence and for formal marae occasions.
Maori had a sophisticated fishery for tuna using woven traps - hinaki or cleverly constructed weirs to trap migrants swimming downstream.
The latter were sometimes big pieces of engineering requiring clever and staunch construction techniques.
Left: A modern operational eel weir in Northland. Nets are strung from the structure during the autumn downstream migration.
Not only did Maori have a sophisticated fishery for tuna, they also had well developed methods to preserve the meat and, to hold tuna alive for many months.
Model of a traditional Maori eel trap in the Wanganui Museum. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-6388-49. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23249205
Traditional Maori wicker baskets for trapping eels and other fish. Ref: 1/1-007414-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22883187
Traditional Maori eel trap on the Whanganui River. Ref: 1/2-140012-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22832337
The Maori Eel Fishery
Whilst times have changed, the importance of tuna to Maori, the taonga, continues.
Maori hold just over half of the North Island’s commercial tuna quota along with their exclusive non-commercial customary rights.