6 Dec 2013

Review makes no call on longfin eels

9:23 pm on 6 December 2013

A government-ordered review says it's highly likely the longfin eel population has declined but stops shorts of recommending a halt to commercial fishing.

The independent review was carried out after Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright called for a moratorium on harvesting the eels to prevent their extinction.

The review panel says there is a high probability the number of eels has dropped due to culling, damming and fishing, though the decline has slowed or even halted in the last decade. As well, it finds the way the eel population is monitored is limited, and a more comprehensive approach is needed.

The review did not make any recommendations about whether commercial fishing limits should be tightened or even suspended.

However, Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy will consider the report and recommend how the eel population should be managed early next year.

Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) fisheries and science principle advisor Pamela Mace says further reductions in commercial catch limits are not off the table following the review.

MPI will be meeting industry representatives and the Eel Science Working Group to discuss what happens next.

"They're at quite a preliminary stage at the moment that will accelerate in early 2014, and a whole range of management options will be discussed."

Dr Mace says she doesn't know what those options will be but is not ruling out lower catch limits.