Fisheries Infosite

Freshwater Eels North Canterbury (ANG12)
Maori name
Scientific name
Anguilla dieffenbachii, A. australis, A. reinhardtii

Physical characteristics

There are two species of Freshwater Eel in New Zealand, the Shortfin eel and the Longfin eel. The Shortfin is greenish bronze on top with a silver belly. The Longfin is sooty black all over. Male and female Shortfin eels have an average length of 40-50 cm and 50-80 cm respectively. Longfin eels have average lengths of 50-70 cm and 80-100 cm for males and females respectively.

Life cycle

Shortfin eels have a maximum age of 60 years and reach maturity at 19 years. Longfin eels have a maximum age of 106 and reach maturity at 33 years. It is thought that both types spawn only once after a migration from freshwater to the ocean then die.


Freshwater Eels are found throughout New Zealand waters. Shortfin eels live in lowland lakes and muddy rivers. Longfin eels live in stony rivers and high country lakes. Both spend the majority of their lives in freshwater and migrate to the ocean to spawn.

Key statistics
Reported commercial catch1 (tonnes)
Quota value estimate2 (NZ$m)
Exports estimate2 (NZ$m)
1 Reported commercial catch is calculated for the 12 month period to 30/09/2025
2 Quota value and exports are calculated pro-rata to reported commercial catch for the 12 month period to 30/09/2025