Researchers in New Zealand are calling for petfood companies to stop exporting eel to the United States to be used as a novel protein source in petfoods.

One local petfood company, Addiction Foods, exports a range of gourmet petfoods to the US and other markets, marketing them as hypoallergenic or "earth-friendly." However, Massey University freshwater scientist Mike Joy is among a number of researchers calling for an end to harvesting long fin, New Zealand's only endemic eel. According to Manaaki Tuna group, the number of long-fin eels has been declining for decades, meaning the species may be approaching extinction.

Addiction Foods says it relies on advice from the New Zealand government to ensure that the eels are harvested sustainably.

''The eels used in our products are managed under [New Zealand]’s internationally respected Ministry of Fisheries Quota Management System,'' Addiction Foods said. ''This reassures us as we know that the numbers of eel are carefully monitored and sustainably harvested."

New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries says long finned eels are a commercial species that is sustainably harvested under a quota system, and so, may be used in petfood.

As a result, Manaaki Tuna says the group will now focus on reaching overseas buyers of petfood containing New Zealand eel to inform them that the petfood products contain what the Department of Conservation classifies as a "species in decline."