Archives For fish

Today we follow Kirsten, one of our marine scientists, in the second part a collaborative study with MPI and NIWA to survey blue cod in marine reserves.

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Celebrating World Fish Migration Day in New Zealand, a global event that brings attention to migratory fish and their need for open river systems.

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Welcome to Seaweek 2015 (28 February to 8 March). It’s time to “Look beneath the surface – Papatai ō roto – Papatai ō raro”.

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By Cornelia Vervoon, Partnerships Ranger, Franz Josef

Rangers Mirella Pomeroy and Myles Riki were out in Saltwater Forest on the West Coast last week completing the local annual mudfish (Neochanna apoda) survey.

Range Myles setting a mudfish trap. Photo: Mirella Pomeroy.

Ranger Myles setting one of the mudfish traps

They set 30 traps and caught 32 mudfish, half a dozen koura/crayfish and some kokopu – a great result!

A mudfish and a koura. Photo: Mirella Pomeroy.

A mexican standoff between a mudfish and a koura

Mudfish are under increasing threat from habitat loss, so to find them thriving in Saltwater Forest is a really positive sign.

Two mudfish in a trap. Photo: Mirella Pomeroy.

Two mudfish in one go

Mirella found out what the bigger ones have been eating:

“We caught this one mudfish, which we thought was pregnant because it had a really big belly. Then we picked it up for a closer look… and it regurgitated (“blleeerrrgh”) a juvenile kokopu into Myles’s hand.” 

A mudfish up close. Photo: Mirella Pomeroy.

A mudfish up close

You can find more information about mudfish and New Zealand’s other freshwater fish species on the DOC website.

Saltwater Forest, South Westland. Photo: Mirabella Pomeroy.

Perfect mudfish habitat – Saltwater Forest, South Westland

Meet Teviot flathead galaxias, one of the five species of New Zealand native freshwater fish, whose threat of extinction has recently been listed as nationally critical—the highest threat category

Gulp, gulp… I’m Teviot flathead galaxias, but you can call me Tev.

I live, with every other Teviot on the planet, in a small part of the Teviot River in Otago… gulp, gulp.

If you think that sounds crowded you’d be wrong. There aren’t that many of us. Probably less than 100. So, it’s actually kinda lonely.

Teviot flathead galaxias.

Not just any Teviot flathead galaxias — it’s me!

I may not be as famous as Sirocco the kākāpō (…yet), but some of my family are quite well known. Unfortunately for them though, it’s for how they taste in a fritter… gulp, gulp.

I am every bit as threatened as my feathery friend though. We’re both classified in the New Zealand Threat Classification System as ‘nationally critical’—that’s just one step away from ‘extinct’… gulp, gulp.  

It’s tough to be a small fish like me, as there are many threats to my home, including land use changes, gravel extraction, water abstraction, drain clearing and declining water quality… gulp, gulp.

On top of all this, introduced trout—who are a lot bigger than me—think I’m quite tasty… gulp, gulp—just like you humans with your whitebait fritters.

Gollum galaxias - classified as 'nationally vulnerable'

Gollum galaxias – classified as ‘nationally vulnerable’

I think there’s room for us all—native fish, trout and humans, but we fish rely on you humans to talk to each other and work together to come up with ways to keep our rivers and lakes clean and beautiful and, importantly, to keep me off the ‘extinct’ list… gulp, gulp.

Longfin eel - classified as 'declining'.

Longfin eel – classified as ‘declining’

If you’d like to know more about the conservation status of New Zealand freshwater fish you can find our more information on the Waiology blog.

The Department of Conservation website has the official information on where our freshwater fish are rated on the New Zealand Threat Classification System

By Rob Griffiths, Community Relations Ranger, Rotorua.

Just over a year ago, inspired by a Te Arawa Lakes Trust initiative, a small project team was formed with the ultimate goal of providing a sanctuary for koaro, a little native fish, in the upper reaches of Hamurana Springs near Rotorua.

The initial focus was on constructing a weir across the stream to help exclude trout, and then later to remove the trout from the upstream side of the spring.

A kaora being held over a bucket

Check out this little sucker

Projects that happen in streams, rivers or lakes around the Rotorua region are never simple! Generally you need resource consent from the regional council, approval from Te Arawa Lakes Trust (as they manage the beds), local iwi require consultation, and often approval is needed from Fish & Game and NIWA. Rather than going through the motions and pushing on alone, a working group that included all the associated organisations was formed and this collective expertise and commitment proved invaluable to the project.

Wading near the Hamurana Spring trout barrier.

Hamurana Spring trout barrier

DOC Ranger Kristina Thompson has been involved since the outset. She felt it was important to involve as many of the relevant organisations as possible as partners in the project. Their approval is one thing, but having them on board as partners in the project brought the added benefit of their skills and knowledge.

The weir is simple in design and construction, having a slightly sloped downstream side to allow koaro to climb, and a grate to repel trout from jumping over. A distinguishing feature of koaro is their ability to climb up very steep surfaces such as waterfalls, dams and even white-baiters’ buckets.

Wader training for iwi helpers.

Iwi wader training

To date, Kristina has been both surprised and delighted with the results of the project. It is the first structure of its kind in the Bay of Plenty and so far the results have been positive. Recent monitoring of koaro above the weir shows that numbers of koaro have sky rocketed, and the waterways they are now found are much more dispersed than previously reported.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Stella McQueen, Freshwater Ranger/”native fish geek” in DOC’s Taranaki/Whanganui Area Offices.

At work

Stella McQueen standing in a forest.


Some things I do in my job include… Fishing! Mostly spotlighting or electrofishing, surveying streams in order to update records, find out what is there and figure out how best to look after the special places that we find.

The best bit about my job is… Fishing! The astonishment and excitement each time my spotlight falls on a great big kōkopu or longfin eel. Sharing the knowledge and helping to look after these incredible animals.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…
Rosemary Miller. She was a friend of the family when I was an odd teenager obsessed with medieval history. She was a huge inspiration and mentor. I still aspire to be like her when I grow up…

The scariest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… Rolling a brand new ute down a 100 metre cliff into a stream and being rescued by a helicopter, three weeks into a three month contract. I remain utterly astonished that we survived.

The rolled ute at the bottom of a cliff.

Our ute at the bottom of the 100 metre cliff

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… The old theme tune from Thomas the Tank Engine!

If I could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional – it would be… A zombie apocalypse survivor, so long as dying during the week wasn’t permanent. Technically, I am not a fan of horror movies, but ever since I rolled the ute I have had zombie dreams and they are so much fun!

My best ever holiday was… Last year, spending eleven months living in my little campervan. I travelled the length of the country meeting fish geeks, looking for different species and writing a field guide to freshwater fish, which will be published this November. I have loved the mobile life so much that my van is ‘home’ for the foreseeable future.

Campervan parked at Molesworth Station.

My home, parked at the top of the highest alpine road in the country (1,347 m), on Molesworth Station

My secret indulgence is… Collecting clever and/or funny internet memes, webcomics and captioned images. Embarrassingly, I have over 4,000 in 52 folders, and I look at them when I need a chuckle.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to… Be writing more books and exploring more of this amazing country, and finding more work with DOC!

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Well, there are lots, but my current favourite is “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” The next fishy book I want to write will be a very long and extremely challenging project, which is scary, but would be so good for me to do.

Stella feeding a longfin eel at night.

Feeding pieces of fresh roadkill to longfin eels, after we finished our work for the night. They had a good go at my fingers too

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… “Don’t believe a word I say.” This piece of wisdom was pressed on my first-year Classical Studies class, by our amazing lecturer Norman Austin. He wanted us to check all ‘facts’ and make up our own minds, even if the information came from trusted experts.

In work and life I am motivated by… Obsessions. Life without interests and dreams and one’s weird personal geekiness would be boring. There is always something that I am utterly fascinating by and avidly researching.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… That it is not a choice between having a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We either have both, or we have nothing.

A large giant kokopu.

Our best fish of the season – a 32cm severely-battle-scarred giant kōkopu


Question of the week…

What is your biggest pet peeve? People who use text-speak out loud.

Stella holding a Tarndale bully.

Me with a Tarndale bully – the most geographically restricted freshwater fish species in New Zealand