Interest in eel farming in New Zealand began in the late 1960s, and in the early 1970s there were five trial eel farms, ranging from a traditional Japanese outdoor pond farm to an indoor intensive heated water system. By late 1975 only one farm remained. The reasons for farm closures were combinations of high overheads, slow growth, persistent disease problems and associated mortality, and uncertain supplies of glass eels. Today there is an upsurge of interest in eel farming to supply markets in Southeast Asia and Europe which have been affected, at least in part, by reduced supplies of glass eels of Northern Hemisphere species.
NIWA’s Christchurch laboratory has carried out trials on the early culture of glass eels of both the common New Zealand species, the shortfinned eel (Anguilla australis) and the longfinned eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii). The relatively modest aims of the first year’s programme were to develop suitable culture techniques, to develop experience in the husbandry of juvenile eels, and induce them to feed.
World First in Shortfinned Eel Production – July 2005
A New Zealand research team has scored a world first by not only being the first to successfully breed the shortfinned eel in captivity, but also in hatching commercial quantities of any eel species.
Scientists at the Warkworth-based Mahurangi Technical Institute (MTI) have, in the last few weeks, achieved spectacular results in their eel breeding project, a breakthrough which has the potential to end severe shortages constraining the international eel farming industry.
“This is one of only a handful of occasions that eels of any species have ever been produced in captivity in the world and, we believe, the only time they have been hatched in commercial quantities,” says MTI Director, Paul Decker. “When literally thousands of hatchlings began emerging in the middle of the night, at 3am, the whole team was so excited we felt like parents again.”
The project team at MTI has been working on breeding New Zealand’s shortfinned eel, Anguilla australis, for the past five years.