Tuna – ā tātou taonga
IntroductionTuna are not only historically important to Māori, they are our taonga today. But pressure on some species is resulting in their decline.
Tuna (the Māori word for eels) are important to Māori, but pressure on some species is resulting in their decline.
He taonga whakahirahira te tuna ki te Māori, engari nā runga i ngā kōkiritanga o te wā kua heke haere ētahi momo.
There are different creation stories for tuna in Aotearoa. One narrative states that tuna was a child of Te Ihorangi who came from the union of Ranginui and Papatūānuku. Te Ihorangi’s children included Ngōiro (the conger eel), Tuere (the blind eel) and tuna.
He maha ngā kōrero orokohanga mō te tuna i Aotearoa. E kī ana tētehi kōrero he tamaiti a Tuna nā Te Ihorangi, ā, nā Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku a Te Ihorangi. Ko Ngōiro rāua ko Tuere ētehi atu o ngā tamariki a Te Ihorangi.
Importance / Te noho taonga mai
Tuna are very important for tangata whenua and that is re-iterated through our literature. Many marae around the motu are adorned with carvings of tuna alongside their tupuna. They were heavily relied upon by our tupuna as a source of kai and important events were often scheduled around the harvesting of tuna. They were kaitiaki of our streams, rivers and lakes, they were a vehicle for knowledge transmission and they were used as environmental indicators.
He tino taonga te tuna ki te tangata whenua. Inā noa atu ngā kōrero mōna i ā tātou kōrero tuhituhi. He maha hoki ngā marae hōrapa nei i te motu e whakarākai ana i ngā whakairo ki te tuna i te taha tonu o ō rātou tūpuna. I whakawhirinaki atu ō tātou tūpuna ki te tuna hei kai, ka mutu, he mea āta whakarite ngā hui rangatira kia tū i te wā e hopungia ai te tuna. He kaitiaki i ngā manga, i ngā awa me ngā roto. He pātaka kōrero, he kaitohu hoki rātou i te wairua o te taiao.
Tuna were one of the main sources of protein in the diets of our tupuna. They were a rich source of omega 3 and other essential fats and oils, and they were caught in abundance with relative ease.
Tuna can be stored live in ‘pātaka tuna’ for over twelve months and eaten as required. They can also be preserved or dried and kept for months. Easy storage of tuna provided tupuna with a good source of protein at a time when conventional refrigeration was not available.
Because tuna come in many different sizes, they are a very versatile food. We have found many creative ways in which to eat them: you can grill them, bake them, boil them and smoke them. You can jelly them, fry them, steam them ... you can cook them any way you like! You can experiment frugally, with tuna, in ways you may not be able to do with other fish or meat.
Ko te tuna tētehi o ngā kai pūmua matua ki ō tātou tūpuna. He tino putunga o te hinu ‘omega 3’ me ētehi atu ngako, he ngāwari ki te hopu, ā, makuru ana te riro mai.
Whakaputungia orangia ai te tuna i ngā pātaka tuna mō te tekau mā rua marama neke atu, ā, ka kaingia i te wā e pīrangitia ai. Kōtutungia ai, pāwharangia ai mō te hia nei ngā marama. Nā te mea he pēnei rawa te ngāwari ki te rokiroki i te tuna, ka māmā noa iho te whātoro atu hei kai pūmua i te wā o te kore hiko, o te kore whata tio.
Nā te mea he huhua ngā momo rahi o te tuna, he huhua anō tōna whakaritenga hei kai, arā, he rorerore, he tunu, he kōhua, he whakaauau, he petipeti, he parai, he tunu ki te koromahu - kei a koe te tikanga o te tunu. Nā te mea e makuru ana tēnei kai, e taea hoki te whakamātautau engari kāore e taea te pēnei i ētehi atu ika, mīti rānei, he moumou te mutunga iho.
Te mahi kai
Māori have used mātauranga to sustainably take tuna without adversely affecting the population. This knowledge emerged from observations of their life cycle, habitat needs and migration patterns. Today, tangata whenua have customary harvest rights over tuna fisheries in their rohe for special events and hold 20% of the commercial fishery. However, there has been a steady decline in numbers of tuna, encouraging iwi to reduce or completely restrict harvesting in their rohe. Numerous iwi around the country have chosen not to fish their allocated commercial quota to assist in the revitalisation of customary harvest.
Nā te mātauranga o te Māori i mōhio ai ia ki te tiaki me te hopu tuna i kore ai i pā he mate ki tōna rahinga. Nō te aronga a te Māori ki te taiao tōna mōhio ki ngā hurihanga oranga, ki ōna kāinga noho me ōna hekenga. I ēnei rā kei te tangata whenua tō rātou anō mana hopu tuna ki ngā nōhanga tuna i ō rātou rohe mō ngā hui rangatira, ā, e 20% te whiwhinga mai i te puna ika tauhokohoko. Ahakoa rā, he rōnaki tonu te heke haere o te tuna. Nā konā kua whakatau ētehi iwi ki te whakaiti i te hopunga, ki te whakatū rāhui rānei i ō rātou rohe. He maha tonu ngā iwi huri noa i te motu kua tatū kia kaua e mau i a rātou te rahinga tauhokohoko kua tohua ki a rātou, mei kore tēnei e āwhina ki te whakapiki ake i te rahi o te tuna tērā e mau mō ngā hui.
Longfin eel / Tuna pakikau roa
Image: Philippe Gerbeaux
The many names of tuna / Ngā tini ingoa o te tuna
Tuna have many names depending on their size, colouration, and maturity, among other things. Many iwi also have their own name for certain varieties of tuna. Some examples include:
- Hao: about 30 cm in length
- Pāpaka: small, black tuna captured at the beginning of their migration but are typically returned because of their size (small)
- Puhi: a very sleek, firm-bodied tuna with light colouration; captured en mass during their migration.
- Riko: about 1 m long with a greenish back
- Paranui: dark with a thick skin
- Matamoe: large type of eel; brown and grey in colour
- Kōkopu tuna (also a name for galaxias species): this variey of eel is about 1.8 m long and weighs about 30 kg
- Kūwharuwharu/ōrea/kirirua: large variety that can grow up to 2 m long and weigh about 50 kg
- Tahimaro: a very large, black tuna; often territorial and sometimes aggressive
- Ruahine: thick-bodied, large longfin tuna; often caught in the migration. These are typically returned.
Tuna are known to pākehā as simply the longfin (Anguilla dieffenbachii) and shortfin eel (Anguilla australis).
He maha rawa ngā ingoa o te tuna nā runga i te āhua o te rahi, te tae, te pakeke me ētehi atu mea. Kei tēnā iwi, kei tēnā iwi ōna anō ingoa mō ngā momo tuna. Hei tauira ēnei:
- Hao: e 30 cm pea te roa
- Pāpaka: he iti, he tuna mangu ka hopungia i te tīmatanga o te hekenga, engari whakahokia ai nā tō rātou itinga
- Puhi: he whīroki, he tuna tinana pakari, he teatea te kiri; he inati te rahi ka mau i te hekenga
- Riko: 1 m te roa, he āhua karera tōna tuarā
- Paranui: he kākarauri, he kiri mātotoru
- Matamoe: he tuna nui; he parauri, he kiwikiwi ōna tae
- Kōkopu tuna (he ingoa anō hoki tēnei mō ngāi ‘Galaxias’): 1.8 m te roa, e 30 kg pea te taumaha o tēnei momo tuna
- Kūwharuwharu/ōrea/kirirua: he nui tēnei momo, ka tupu kia 2 m te roa, kia 50 kg pea te taumaha
- Tahimaro: he tuna nui, he pango hoki; he tuna āta wawao i tōna kāinga noho, he tukituki hoki
- Ruahine: he mātotoru te tinana, he tuna pakikau nui; hopungia ai i te hekenga o te tuna. Whakahokia ai ēnei momo.
He iti te wehewehe a te Pākehā i te momo tuna - he ‘pakikau roa’, he ‘pakikau poto’ rānei, ka mutu i reira.
Longfin eel with fungal growth on lips / Tuna pakikau roa me te hekaheka i ngā ngutu
Healthy eels mean healthy water / He tuna ora, he wai ora
Tuna are able to help iwi assess water quality and habitat diversity. As longfin eels are quite susceptible to pollution, their health is also an indication of the health of the ecosystem in which they live. Tuna are examined for disease on the skin, fins, and mouth. In times of very poor water quality the lips of the tuna become completely covered with fungal growth, which may prevent it from feeding. This sometimes results in the death of tuna.
Mā te tuna ia ka mōhiotia e te iwi te kounga o te wai me te nōhanga. Nā te mea ka raru te tuna pakikau roa i te para, ko tō rātou oranga tētehi tohu o te oranga o te rohe e noho rā rātou. He mea āta tirotiro te tuna mehemea kua pā te mate ki te kiri, ki ngā pakikau me te waha. I te wā ka kino te paru o te wai, ka kapi katoa ngā ngutu o te tuna i te hekaheka, ā, e kore pea e taea e ia te kai. Ki te pērā rawa te kino, ko te mate pea te otinga atu.
Threats to tuna / Ngā mōreareatanga ki te tuna
The life cycle of tuna is very complex, and during different life stages they rely on different habitats to live in and migrate through. This makes it very difficult for us to sustainably harvest in this day and age due to the high demand on our natural resources and the increase in Aotearoa’s population.
Pollution, the building of dams, loss of vegetation and overfishing are the major threats to tuna populations in Aotearoa. Coupled with their life cycle it is very difficult for tuna populations to increase without our help. To learn more about how to sustainably fish in your rohe please contact your local hapū. You can also help by not taking the large female breeding tuna. The ‘big’ tuna are nearly always the females. Please leave these tuna so they can breed. You can help by planting harakeke and grasses to provide good feeding and refuge places for our tuna. If you are a keen whitebaiter you could help by checking your early morning catch for glass eels and returning these to the stream. Night fishing is illegal and will contain many glass eels. Ensure people know that fishing at night is illegal and damages our tuna fishery.
He tuatinitini te hurihanga oranga o te tuna, ā, i ngā huringa o tōna oranga ka whakawhirinaki atu ki ngā nōhanga rerekē hei kāinga, hei wāhi hekenga hoki mōna. Nā tēnei āhuatanga he uaua ki te hopu i runga i te tika i ēnei rā, nā te nui o ngā pēhitanga i ngā rawa me te nui haere o te tangata i Aotearoa.
Ko te pokenga, te whakatū matatara, te matenga o te māheuheu me te inati o te mahi tuna, he mōrearea katoa ki te rahinga o te tuna i Aotearoa. Nā ēnei āhuatanga katoa, me tino uaua e piki ai te rahi o te tuna ki te kore e āwhinatia, e tautokona e te tangata. Kia mōhio ake ai koe ki te mahi tuna i runga i te tika i tōu rohe, me whakapā atu ki tōu anō hapū. He tautoko nui te kore e hopu i ngā uwha whakaputa uri. I te nuinga o te wā he uwha ngā tuna nunui. Tēnā koa waiho ēnei kia mahi i tā rātou mahi. He tautoko nui anō te whakatō harakeke, pātītī, hei wāhi whāngai, hei taumarumaru hoki mō te tuna. Mehemea koe he tangata mahi īnanga, e taea hoki e koe te tautoko mā te tirotiro i tō kupenga i te atatū, mō te tūpono he tuna ‘kōataata’ kei roto, ka whakahoki ai ki te awa. He takahi ture te hao īnanga i te pō, ka mutu, inā te nui o ngā momo tuna nei ka mau ki te kupenga. Me whai kia mōhio te tangata he takahi ture te mahi īnanga i te pō, he tūkino i te tuna tōna mutunga iho.
Telling tuna apart / Te momo tuna
You can tell these two species apart by some of their characteristics:
Range of colours, often light brown/olive
Usually dark brown/black
Grows up to 1 m long and weighs up to 3.5 kg
Often more than 1 m long and can grow up to 2 m long. Can weigh up to 20 kg, sometimes more (although rare today)
Small wrinkle on the skin when bent
Big, loose wrinkles on the skin when bent
Lives mostly in lowland areas
Lives at a wide range of altitudes, including very high elevations
Relatively pollution tolerant
Relatively intolerant of pollution
Dorsal (top) fin extends a little further forward than the anal (bottom) fin
Dorsal fin extends a lot further forward than the anal fin
Small, slender head with a thick well-muscled body
Head is similar width to the body of the tuna
Ka mōhio koe ki te rerekētanga o tētehi i tētehi atu mā ēnei āhuatanga ō rāua:
Tuna pakikau poto
Tuna pakikau roa
Te maha ngā tae, kei waenga i te parauri me te oriwa te nuinga
He parauri pāpango/he pango
He 1m te roa o tōna tupu, ka 3.5kg pea te taumaha
1m ki te 2 m te roa. Ka 20 kg te taumaha, neke atu rānei (me uaua ka kitea he mea tino rahi i ēnei rā)
He iti te kurehe i te kiri ina whakapikongia
He nui ōna kūreherehe ina whakapikongia
Kei ngā whenua hakahaka ōna nōhanga i te nuinga o te wā
Mai i ngā whenua hakahaka ki ngā whenua tiketike ōna nōhanga, ko ētahi kei ngā maunga rawa
Ka ora tonu i ngā wai paruparu
Kāore e tino ora i ngā wai paruparu
Kei mua paku atu te pakikau o runga e toro ana, tēnā i tō raro
Kei mua noa atu te pakikau o runga e toro ana, tēnā i tō raro
He iti, he pūhihi te upoko, he mātotoru, he pāmārō tōna tinana
He rite te whānui o te upoko ki tō te tinana
In the past our tupuna transmitted large bodies of knowledge intergenerationally through oral transmission (speaking) and through practical transmission (the activity of eeling). Nowadays we get most of our food from the supermarket, and thus the opportunity to transmit the learning of the past has been diminished. It is important to continue both these streams of learning – oral and practical. If you are keen on persuing this form of education contact your hapū or wānanga.
I mua rā he nui te mātauranga i ākona ki ngā whakatupuranga mā te kōrero me te mahi ā-ringa. I ēnei rā, nō te toa hokomaha te nuinga o ā tātou kai, nā konei i heke ai te ākona o te mātauranga o mua mō te wāhi ki ngā kai. He mea hira te whai kia mau tonu ēnei ara e rua o te ako, arā, mā te kōrero me te mahi. Me he kaingākau koe ki te whai i tēnei momo mātauranga, me whakapā atu ki tō hapū, tō wānanga rānei.
Tuna life cycle / Te hurihanga ora o te tuna
Eel diagram - look how hard it is to be a tuna! Shaded images behind the tuna are the barriers or pressures that tuna face throughout their life cycle e.g. drop culverts, dams, predation, human consumption. View larger (PDF, 1,120K)
Information collected in collaboration with Te Wānanga o Raukawa.