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.
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’
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’
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.
Lan Pham is a Freshwater Fish Ranger from DOC’s Coastal Otago Area Office, she writes about an exciting new project to spread the love of New Zealand’s freshwater fish species.
A Lowland longjaw galaxiid – classified as critically endangered
For many our native freshwater fish species are most commonly encountered is in a whitebait fritter, but in Otago a new project aims to change the way local communities experience and relate to our unique freshwater species.
The Otago region is a biodiversity ‘hot-spot’ for a fascinating group of galaxiids—native freshwater fish, which unlike their whitebait counterparts, do not migrate to sea. Instead, these non-migratory galaxiids live out their lives in the stream or river where they hatched. Often these few remaining populations have passed under the radar of their human neighbours. However, as freshwater resources are coming under increasing pressure, the need to raise the profile of these galaxiids is of utmost importance, meaning the time for action and getting to know our galaxiids before we lose them for good is now!
Electric fishing for the infamous Clutha flathead galaxiid in Boundary Creek
‘Growing Otago’s Galaxiid’s’ is an initiative that has sprung out of Otago’s Growth and Engagement Strategy. It’s a fresh start that aims to get local communities, irrigation groups and foresty companies excited and engaged with their local species, and to facilitate what measures/activities/events they want to drive to help conserve their galaxiid species.
The project is in its first month and there has already been some exciting successes. Several schools have signed up to partner with local fish-friendly landowners who are keen to host restoration sites on their properties. We had a fun visit to the Conservation Award-winning Waitahuna School and met their local galaxiids at Boundary creek and are working with Kids Conservation Club and City Forests on an exciting team project involving our nationally endangered Eldon’s galaxiid.
Discovering what fascinating creatures live in Oamaru creek!
Only time will tell whether we are on to a winning start with spreading galaxiid love throughout Otago. But we will sure be doing our darnedest to try new things, involve communities at every step of the process and let them take the reigns and run with the projects themselves into the future.
Our big vision is that communities will drive their own galaxiid conservation projects, landowners and forestry companies will actively protect galaxiids on their land and local businesses will support their local galaxiids through sponsorship. Our hope is that the galaxiid love we are seeding during this project is something that will continue to grow within communities, far beyond what DOC alone could ever hope to achieve!
Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.
Today we profile Murray Neilson, Technical Support Officer: Freshwater Ecosystems.
What kind of things do you do in your role?
I’m responsible for overseeing Otago Conservancy’s freshwater programme and its non-migratory galaxiid programme. I also have responsibility for overseeing the conservancy’s wetland protection role. In addition to this I’m the current Non-migratory Galaxiid Recovery Group leader. I spend much of my time advocating for freshwater habitats and species through the RMA process, gathering and presenting evidence to regional council hearings and the Environment Court.
I also represent the Department at stakeholder meetings connected with these processes. In my role as Recovery Group Leader I provide advice to Otago and other conservancies on non-migratory galaxiid protection and monitoring activities, and commission relevant research projects. Occasionally (very occasionally these days!) I get to go out with the Coastal Otago freshwater team and do some actual electric fishing survey work.
Left: In the entrance hall at Shepherdstown U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Training Centre, on an Environmental Flows training course. Right: One for the pot – hunting at Omaio 2010.
What is the best part about your job?
The great environments it’s been my good fortune to work in (e.g. fisheries surveys in the Otago high country as part of High Country Tenure Review – just magic!), and the many good people it’s been my privilege to work with.
What is the hardest part about your job?
Convincing other agencies of the need to give greater recognition and protection to our unique freshwater species and habitats.Understanding the various complexities of NHMS, species optimisation, priority setting etc., and dealing with the machinations of the DOC bureaucracy.
What led you to your role in DOC?
I was previously a Game Management Officer with the Wildlife Service and was stationed in Dunedin, dealing with gamebird management, wetlands and environmental planning issues from July 1975 until April 1987 when DOC subsumed the service. Prior to that I’d been an Assistant Game Management Officer in Rotorua, and before that, after completing a wildlife traineeship, an Assistant Fauna Conservation Officer working out of Wellington.
Left: Upper Ahuriri Valley. Right: Good trout from the upper Ahuriri River.
What was your highlight from the month just gone?
Pending the opening morning of the game season, duck hunting with my son Sean in the Upper Taieri wetland (quite successfully I might add!).
The rule of three…
Three pet peeves
Terms such as ‘going forward’, ‘change is inevitable’ (perhaps, but is it always for the good?) and other management speak
Over-sensitive car alarms
Slow roasted Canada goose (you have to try it, believe me!)
Album – The Last Waltz – The Band, and most early Bob Dylan stuff
Book – This one’s hard, I read a lot and love spy thrillers and mysteries, so it’s whatever I’m enjoying at the time. My favourite authors are David Baldacci, Greg Iles, Richard North Patterson, Christopher Reichs, and Lee Child.
Left: Another for the pot – Wilberforce River 2009. Right: Canoeing with my daughter on Lake Waihola.
Deep and meaningful
“Don’t look back – something might be gaining on you!” For some reason this line, uttered by Kris Kristofferson in the film Convoy, has stuck with me.
What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?
Never give up (at least without a good fight!).
Who or what inspires you and why?
A still, late summer’s day on a free-running river, and extremely talented individuals.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Wildlife Officer (surprisingly enough!).
And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?
Retired and relaxed – which I’m shortly to be!
What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?
Forget this electric car stuff (this will eventaully lead to demand for more hydro dams, despite the current hiatus). Eco-diesel is the way to go (made from waste product, of course!).
Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year – at home? At work?
At home (as that’s where I’ll mostly be, in future) – grow more vegetables and make more compost.
If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?