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North American Journal of Fisheries Management

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Abstract/ Summary

The endemic New Zealand longfin eel Anguilla dieffenbachi (hereafter, longfin eel), is overfished, and in southern South Island, New Zealand, rivers have recently become predominated by males. This study examined length and age at sexual differentiation in male eels in the Aparima River catchment (area, 1,375 km(2); mean flow, 20 m(3.)s(-1)) and the sex ratio and distribution of eels throughout the catchment. Longfin eels differentiated into males mostly at lengths from 300 to 460 mm and ages from 10 to 25+ years. Females were rare: Of 738 eels examined for sexual differentiation, 466 were males and 5 were females, and a few others, not examined, were large enough to be female. These counts suggest a male : female ratio among differentiated longfin eels of 68:1. Of 31 differentiated shortfin eels A. australis, less common in the Aparima River, 26 were females. Male longfin eels were distributed throughout the main stern and tributaries; undifferentiated eels were more prevalent in lower and middle reaches and in the main stem than in upper reaches and tributaries. In other studies, male longfin eels predominated commercial catches in the Aparima and four other southernmost rivers, by 2.4:1 to 13.6:1 males to females. The Aparima River had the most skewed sex ratio. Longfin eel catches from the Aparima River will become more male predominated because few sublegal-size females were present. The length-frequency distributions of eels in the present samples and in the commercial catches were truncated just above minimum legal size (about 460 mm), showing that few females escape the fishery. Historically, females predominated these rivers. The recent change in sex ratio is attributable partly to selective harvest of females, and partly to changes in the structure of the population from fishing, such that differentiation into males has been favored. Longevity, delayed sexual maturity, semel-parity, and endemism with restricted range make the longfin eel particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

McCleave JD, Jellyman DJ. Male Dominance in the New Zealand Longfin Eel Population of a New Zealand River: Probable Causes and Implications for Management. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. 2004;24(2): 490-505.




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