Legislation to protect indigenous freshwater fish

Wellington, August 9, 2018
A vital step towards better protecting indigenous freshwater fish was taken with today’s introduction of a new Indigenous Fish Conservation Bill in Parliament.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said that the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill amends the Conservation Act 1987 will provide a much-needed “modern toolbox” to help indigenous freshwater fish.
The following is her Statement issued today:
New ‘Toolbox’
Our indigenous freshwater fish are in trouble. New Zealand has 54 indigenous freshwater fish species and 22 of these are threatened with extinction. Whitebait, freshwater and lamprey fisheries have declined dramatically over the past century.
The Conservation Act and the existing regulations dating back to 1983 are inadequate and have gaps and changes are needed.
The new Bill will provide a completer and more effective toolbox to help manage indigenous freshwater fish.
The bill amends the Conservation Act so that the Minister of Conservation can review and improve old regulations on fish passage and noxious fish such as koi carp and develop regulations to address threats such as damage to fish spawning sites and fish being killed by activities such as drainage works and pump stations.
Other indigenous animals such as birds, and plants are safe from being killed within protected areas. Native fish are just as precious, and deserve the same level of protection in conservation areas.
This change will support the growing momentum of efforts to protect native freshwater fish.
Improving fish passage
Communities are improving fish passage by ensuring culverts don’t provide a barrier, planting along stream margins to help restore aquatic habitats and fish spawning sites. Earlier this year national guidelines on fish passage were released.
I look forward to public consultation and iwi engagement to help identify how to better manage restore our freshwater fish populations to health.
About the Report
Canterbury mudfish remain in the Threatened – Nationally Critical category, and continue to decline. Much of the Canterbury mudfish habitat is on private land and is severely impacted by agriculture.
They are found in still or very slow flowing, meandering streams with deep pools and associated wetlands, spring fed streams, stock-water races, and drains. Basically, land-based aquatic environments, whether natural or human-made.
With a mere 10% of New Zealand’s wetlands remaining, it is sad but not surprising that the loss of aquatic and other wetland habitat has had a major impact on Canterbury mudfish and other wetland-dependent indigenous freshwater fish.
The report lists 22 native fish species in the ‘threatened’ category, and 17 species in the ‘at risk’ category. Of the 22 threatened species, 21 belong to the Galaxiidae family, which includes Canterbury mudfish.
Species’ Status
The report also notes an improved status for three species and a worsened status for two species.
Conservation management has resulted in the lowland longjaw galaxias (Waitaki River) improving from Threatened – Nationally Critical to Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable.
The improved status of two other species – Pomahaka galaxias and redfin bully – is due to better knowledge rather than observed improvement.
Better knowledge is also the reason the giant bully and southern flathead galaxias have worsened in status.
The classification of longfin eel has remained in the At Risk – Declining category. While data indicates a stable population in areas where commercial eel fishing occurs, there’s no room for complacency.
The degradation and loss of longfin eel habitat outside these fishing sites is concerning, especially in lowland areas, and the obstruction of fish passage continues to be a problem.”
There is no change in status for New Zealand’s five whitebait species.
This report replaces the New Zealand Threat Classification System report on freshwater fish, 2013.
Further information
Canterbury mudfish is the most threatened of New Zealand’s native mudfish species.
Canterbury mudfish are found in a limited number of waterways on the Canterbury Plains, between the Ashley River (in the north) and the Waitaki River (in the south). Their habitat has been heavily impacted by agricultural activities.
Most known remaining Canterbury mudfish habitat is on private land.
DOC works to protect Canterbury mudfish through monitoring and surveys and working with private landowners, central and local government, Ngāi Tahu and community groups on habitat management and protection.
DOC advocates for the protection of Canterbury mudfish through submissions on Canterbury’s regional and district plans, and on resource consent applications.
Find out more about the New Zealand Threat Classification System’s categories: www.nztcs.org.nz
Photo Caption:
Eugenie Sage (From Green Party Website)

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