Southern Shortfin Eel, Longfin Eel
Eels spend most of their lives in freshwater habitats such as rivers and dams but migrate to the ocean to breed. They are caught wild along the east coast of Australia, with the season peaking in spring. Southern Shortfin Eels are farmed in VIC and NSW, with much of the product being smoked. Approximately 40% of the total commercial catch is produced from stock- enhanced (wild stock grown out to marketable size in ponds or dams) shortfinned eels. Victoria takes 80% of Australia's annual eel catch.
The why and how of sustainability
Victorian DPI considers the Victorian Eel fishery to be well managed, utilising input management with limited entry, gear restrictions and water allocation as the main controls. For more information, go HERE. NSW lists the exploitation status of River Eels as 'Lightly to Moderately Fished', noting that stock status does differ between catchments. AMCS list farmed eel as SAY NO due to concerns about the reliance on wild stocks, the vulnerabilities of these stocks, and the amount of wild-caught feed required to raise them. Wild Eel populations have declined in the last decade due to droughts in SE Australia. Eel farms have the potential to reduce local water quality if not carefully monitored. Eels are fed a diet that is made from wild-caught fishmeal, putting additional pressure on wild fish stocks. However, the amount of wild-caught protein required in this feed is likely to reduce in coming years.
Preparation and cooking
EEL has a high oil content that makes it well suited to smoking. They are also quite gelatinous and so poach or steam well.
Live eels should be purchased having already been purged in fresh water. Skinning and cleaning the flesh well will result in a lighter flavoured product.
They can also be grilled or barbequed, with a charry flavour complimenting the strong oily flesh.
MULLET is a small oily fish with a distinctive flavour. It can be used in place of Eel, especially in recipes calling for smoking, to which it is very well suited.