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On the slippery slide to success

Maclean commercial fisherman Mathew Essex with an eel.
Maclean commercial fisherman Mathew Essex with an eel.

MACLEAN commercial fisherman Mathew Essex is on to something but hasn't got any plans to eat it, well, not at this stage anyway.

And he's confident no one will try to steal his slithery catch. Mr Essex has been catching eels in and around the Clarence River and other estuaries on the North Coast for around four years and the prices he obtains is at least 10 times that of mullet, which is about $12/kilo.

All his eels are exported to places like China and Japan, which simply can't get enough of the oriental delicacy when traditional New Year's Eve celebrations come around.

Eels have a complex reproductive lifecycle and live in freshwater but migrate to the ocean to breed.

Adult eels spawn only once in their lifetime and when hatched, ocean currents bring them back to the continental shelf, where at around 18 months of age, they are carried back to shore and into coastal estuaries, where they undergo further development, with the average eel reaching the age of 15 to 20 years.

Mr Essex makes his own eel traps and has developed a bi-catch net that can release turtle, platypus and baby eels which assists in the long-term sustainability of his profession.

"The biggest eel we have ever weighed in has been 11kg," Mr Essex said.

Topics:  china eels fisherman grafton japan



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