Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Killing our natural heritage

Do we need any more evidence that National is the anti-environment party? Not content with wanting to dig up our national parks and bulldoze our natural heritage, they've now allowed the commercial harvesting of threatened species from the conservation estate:

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is allowing commercial fishers to harvest endangered eels from rivers on conservation land, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party has discovered that late last year DOC issued three concessions for commercial eel fishers to take eels from rivers located in the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy, Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Kevin Hague said.


The native longfin eel is found nowhere else in the world and is listed by DOC as a threatened species in gradual decline, the same level of threat as the great spotted kiwi, little blue penguin, rifleman, and banded dotterel.

While the native shortfin eel is not endangered there are concerns that females of the species have been overfished relative to males, leaving an imbalance that could affect future numbers.

As Hague points out, we wouldn't allow the hunting and killing of great spotted kiwi, so why are we treating eels differently? They're a threatened species, living on protected land. They should therefore be protected. This sort of commercial exploitation threatens the species further, and allowing it is contrary to DoC's purposes; whoever signed off on it needs to be sacked, and soon.

Meanwhile, I'm again wondering: why are the Greens still in bed with a government which does this?

Update: It gets worse. According to DoC, eels only breed at the end of their lives:

Long-finned eels breed only once, at the end of their life. When they are ready to breed, they leave New Zealand and swim five thousand kilometres up into the tropical Pacific to spawn, probably in deep ocean trenches somewhere near Tonga.

When they reach their destination, the females lay millions of eggs that are fertilised by the male. The larvae are called leptocephalus and look nothing like an eel –they are transparent, flat, and leaf-shaped. The larvae reach New Zealand by drifting on ocean currents.


Eels take many years to grow and it could be decades before an individual is ready to undertake the long migration back to the tropics to breed. The average age at which a long-finned eel migrates is 23 years for a male and 34 for a female. The adults never return as they die after spawning.

So every eel caught will never breed - a serious and significant loss to the population. This is simply insanity, and I'm staggered that DoC allowed it.