National | Eel

Guardian of Tahiti Giant Eels

Here in Aotearoa, eels or tuna are known as a special delicacy to Māori.

However in Tahiti, they are sacred and regarded as a highly prized taonga. They are protected in their natural environment and the Tahitian people do not eat their eels.

During our visit to Tahiti, we traveled to the island of Moorea.

In the village of Atira, we met Tracey Chaves, a young Tahitian woman who’s a local guardian of the islands giant eels.

Tracey says, “Years ago, the people use to eat the eels. It was very sacred. It was only meant for royal people, but nowadays, they are like our pets.

"We do not eat eels anymore. They are a part of our family."

Tracey says, "The special thing about our eels is that they have blue eyes. It doesn’t mean that they are blind because they’re not.”

The biggest of Tracey's eels is named Anatasia.

I thought the name Anaconda was a much better description of her favourite pet eel, at almost two meters long and about 20 centermetres wide.

“They grew up with me I also grew up with them. The feeling is not as deep as my eels because they are my babies. They are precious. We are their guardians but they are also ours,” says Tracey.

Tracey believes the future protection and conservation of the islands giant eels is what is most valued by the Tahitian people.