Our Living Seas

Freshwater Eels of Larike Village

INDONESIA

Ambon is known for its Muck Diving, but it harbors another interesting creature that will captivate the Photographer and Videographer alike. It is the freshwater eel of Larike Village. These eels inhabit underwater cave like hallows, and come out to feed on chopped fish that the local villagers provide.

Larike Village is located on the Northwestern coast of Ambon. A one hour drive from Maluku Divers, and a short walk through the friendly village with Hafes, the village chief, took me to a stream where women were doing laundry while laughing children splashed in the water. Tidbits of fish were slowly dispersed upstream of a large rock overhang. The completely harmless, mysterious eels emerged to feed. These eels are carnivores, and eat shrimp, crabs, fish, and frogs.

The Larike Village eels are giant (3-6 feet) mottled eels called Anguilla marmorata. They can weigh up to 40 pounds and live up to 40 years. These eels are interesting and very unique because they are the only genus of the Anguilliformes that are catadromous, which means they migrate between the sea and freshwater or estuaries during their life. They migrate from the Larike stream out to the open ocean to spawn over deep water. When the eggs hatch, a transparent leaf-shaped larva develops, called a leptocephali. The larvae drift with the currents for about 120 days and develop into “glass” eels until they mature enough to return up stream as pigmented eels. The entire eel life cycle then repeats itself unless there are inhibiting factors.

There has been a decline in the global population of Anguillid eels, most likely due to overfishing for food, habitat destruction and environmental changes of oceans, rivers and estuaries.

The Larike villagers protect their eels, as they bring money from tourism, the curious, and the serious photographers and videographers looking for something truly unique.