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Tuna ~
NZ Eels


(Longfin eel - Anguilla dieffenbachii , Shortfin eel -Anguilla australis)

We have two unique species of eel here in Aotearoa, the long fin and the short fin eel. We do have a third eel called the spotted eel but they are a visitor from Australia and not native to NZ. Follow along to find out more about our two native eels and how you can tell them apart. 


The NZ short fin eel is the more common eel that you will find in our waterways in lowland Marlborough.

The long fin eels which can only be found in NZ are less common and are designated 'at risk' which means that we need to protect them otherwise they may go extinct in the future. 

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Throughout this page you'll find some fun activities and resources you can explore

at home with your whānau and friends.

Some of these resources have been put together with the help of our fantastic local organisations.

A huge thank you to those people who have helped put these together for us,

we appreciate your support!

Don't forget to share your activities with us, either tag us on social media

or email them to us at


Story by Basil Keane

Main image: ‘Catching the legendary eel at Tangahoe’

The Māori word Tuna means eel, to Māori people tuna once was a vital food source. Māori would build weirs or hīnaki – eel pots to capture the tuna. Then the tuna would be wrapped in leaves to cook on a fire. Many Māori still capture tuna using traditional methods today. 

Tuna  Eel

Te Ao


 Art - Make an Eel Awareness Poster

Eel Awareness Poster

Have a go at making a Tuna/Eel Awareness Poster! Spread the word on protecting our eels.

Get creative making an eel awareness poster with a special message on how to protect our local eels. 

You could add a fun slogan like - 

"Be aware eels live here."

"Plant the banks, the eels say thanks."

"Keep it clear, eels migrate here."

"Coming through! Make way for the eels!"

See what other fun slogans you can come up with, add some great colour and see where you can display your poster around your neighborhood.

Don't forget to share your poster with us, email us an image  -


How to Draw a Tuna / Eel

Check out this video on how to draw a NZ Longfin Eel by Auckland Zoo! 

Why not have a go at drawing your own eel - make sure you share your drawing with us! We would love to see it.

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& Diet

Eels like to eat live food, when they are smaller they will snack on worms, insect larvae, and even snails found in the water. As they grow and get bigger, they will eat small fish, freshwater crayfish and even ducklings!


Image Credit - chameleonseye

CRAFT - Tuna / Eel Puppet

Make a Tuna/Eel Puppet

Have fun making your own eel finger puppet, give your puppet its own unique look. You can take your eel puppet on the great eel migration game with you.

Eel Puppet.png
Click the image to download the PDF sheet!

Image Creator: Antonia O'Donnell   

Eels can be found all throughout NZ in the rivers, lakes and wetlands across the country. Young Elver eels are great climbers and will make their way up waterfalls, creeks and even through dams to find a place to settle. You will often spot eels poking their heads out of cracks and holes in river banks.

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Tuna / Eel GAMES 

Grab some of your friends or whānau and have a go at these fun Tuna/Eel games and activites.

Great Tuna/Eel Migration


Tuna/Eel make a great migration only twice in their life, learn about this migration and have fun migrating as eels yourself.

There are 3 parts to this rawe | awesome game. Click on the image to download the instructions and resources needed to play.


If you give this game a go with your class or some friends take a pic or video and share it with us! Fun tip - make the eel puppet first and take it on a migration.

Tuna Ee Migration game .png

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Did you know that eels only breed once in their lifetime!! Eels migrate to Tonga at the end of their life to breed.  When an eel is reaching the end of their life, they will make their way to the warm Pacific Ocean where they will lay millions of eggs in one go ready for the male eel to fertilise.


Image Credit - NIWA

ACTIVITY - Tuna / Eel Facts

Tuna/Eel Facts

Test your knowledge, how many tuna/eel facts can you answer? you might have to do some research to answer all the questions - good luck!

TunaEel fact sheet.png
Click the image to download the quiz!
Click the eel to download the answers.

Did you know that our long fin eels can live up to 100yrs old!!  Wow that is old!! The short fin eel lives up to about 60yrs old.  Some of the long fin eels you can see at Lake Rotoiti are over 100yrs old!! They are so big! - Have you been to visit them?

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Crazy Facts!

Image Credit - Antonia O'Donnell  

Other Tuna / NZ Eel Resources 

Below you will find links to other Tuna/Eel resources, click the images to take you to the websites. Check them out!

Tamariki for Tuna Resources 

by Conservation Volunteers NZ. 

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Department of Conservation

Information on the website regarding eels.

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Science Learning Hub

Great reading and resources on the Science learning hub for tamariki.

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DOC  - Toyota Kiwi Guardian Activity

Help look after the Tuna/Eels by becoming a water champion!

Although the Toyota Kiwi Guardian programme has now finished and you can no longer claim the medals.

The activities are still a fantastic way for your tamariki to help support conservation efforts and help our native species.  


Below is a link to the "Water Champion" activity!

Help to clean up a water way or coastline near you. Then take action to help protect it.  

Click the image to download a PDF Instruction sheet to learn how to become a Water Champion!

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The longfin eel is endemic to NZ, meaning it can only be found here in Aotearoa and nowhere else in the world.

It is also classed at 'At Risk - Declining', which means we need to help protect them!!

So, what is putting our Longfin eel at risk? 

Humans are the biggest threat to the long fin eel, human activities such as pollution, the building of dams, taking away vegetation near their habitats, and overfishing have had detrimental impacts on our endangered tuna. 

So what can we do to help?

Read below to find out!!


Image Credit - Otago Muesum 


Image Credit -  Antonia O'Donnell

How can you help out Tuna / Longfin Eel?

There are lots of ways you can help our longfin eels to survive! 

- Avoid catching them. If you catch one in your hīnaki then be sure to set it free unharmed.

- Fence streams on your property to keep animals and livestock out. 

- Plant trees or shrubs on banks of streams to help create shade and hiding spots for tuna. 

- Don't let pollution in to the waterways.

- Help with rubbish clean ups around our waterways.

Why not see what planting projects are happening in your community? Head along and lend a helping hand!

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What YOU can do!

Visit a Tuna / Eel

Why not check out a stream near you and see if there are eels living there?

Head on down and look around the banks to see if you can spot an eel poking out to say hello. 

Lake Rotoiti - Nelson Lakes

You can see some really neat Longfin eels at Lake Rotoiti | Nelson lakes - check out this cool video of the eels by Abel Tasman Eco Tours.

Why not head there yourself to check them out. 

Click here to find out about Lake Rotoiti

You can even check out the weather on their webcam before you go.

Pollard Park - Blenheim

If you live in Blenheim you can head to Pollard Park and spot some eels in the streams and ponds - Just remember to leave them be and don't touch them.

Click here to find out more about Pollard Park.

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Lochmara Lodge - Marlborough Sounds

Lochmara Lodge have a couple of amazing resident Longfin eels. If you want to check out the eels and some other neat wildlife, head on over to their website to plan your trip. 

Click on the logo to head to their website!

Tuna / Eel Gallery 
Images from some of our Tuna / Eel events

2023 Tuna Eel Day Event

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