Eels live in rivers, lakes and swamps along the east coast of Australia.
The Long-finned eel is found from Cape York to northern Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. The Short-finned eel inhabits waterways in southern Queensland, Tasmania and throughout the Pacific Islands.
Adult eels migrate from freshwater to the ocean to spawn, after which scientists believe they die. Scientific evidence suggests that they breed in the South Coral sea.
Eel larvae are carried by the East Australia Current to the continental shelf, where they acquire their ‘eel’ shape. They are called ‘Glass eels’ as they have no colour.
After one to three years, the ‘Glass eels’ migrate to freshwater where they develop their colour.
Eels can climb dam and revetment walls and waterfalls, and move overland by slithering like a snake in damp conditions.
Eels are carnivorous. They eat insects, fish, yabbies, shrimps, frogs and young waterfowl, which live in our waterways.
It is not unusual to see eels feeding. It is part of the natural lifecycle in our waterways and has been happening long before people moved in. Eels are relatively harmless to humans. Their teeth are quite short and formed into plates, not long and sharp as is often the perception. They are curious animals and will only bite if provoked.
In most freshwater ecosystems, eels are the top-order predator, which means their natural behaviour helps regulate populations of other animals.
In the late 1990s the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) legislated to protect eels from trapping and harvesting because their populations decreased.
Eels can only be harvested from public dams, such as Hinze Dam, or from private property farms dams. This protects growing eels in other freshwater areas, allowing them to reproduce and maintain the natural lifecycle in our waters.
Eels are edible and are considered a delicacy by some.
Recreational eel fishing is permitted, but the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries limits catches to 10 in total, and they must be at least 30 centimetres long.