A new report shows serious concerns remain for the continued existence of the native Canterbury mudfish, which is on the brink of extinction.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage released the New Zealand Threat Classification System report on freshwater fish today. The report provides the latest conservation status of New Zealand’s 76 known freshwater fish species.
“Canterbury mudfish remain in the Threatened – Nationally Critical category, and continue to decline,” Eugenie Sage said.
“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’s 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.
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.
Minister Sage says 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.
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