Indigenous Freshwater Fish Bill Passes

The future for New Zealand’s threatened indigenous freshwater fish looks brighter with the passing of the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill in Parliament today said Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage.

“Until now, our freshwater fish legislation has been 20 years out of date. We have lacked effective tools to look after fish spawning areas, ensure that culverts and drains don’t block fish passage in rivers and streams, and manage fishing on conservation lands.

“Indigenous freshwater fish have been treated as second class species compared to indigenous birds and plants. They are currently less protected on conservation lands, outside of national parks and reserves, than virtually all other indigenous wildlife and plants. Today, I’m delighted that we’re changing that,” said Eugenie Sage says.

“We’re acknowledging that our indigenous freshwater fish deserve the same treatment on conservation land as kiwi, kāka, whio and other indigenous wildlife.

“New Zealand has 56 species of indigenous freshwater fish many of which are only found here. But they’re in trouble – 70% are threatened or at risk of extinction. Lamprey, eels and some whitebait fisheries have declined dramatically over the past century.”

“A better legislative ‘toolbox’, will enable the Department of Conservation to work with iwi, councils, landholders and the public to improve fisheries management and help native fish thrive.”

The Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill will allow better management of the main threats to indigenous freshwater fish such as barriers to fish passage, loss of spawning sites and noxious fish such as koi carp. It will enable better management of activities such as drain clearing which can that kill large numbers of eels and other fish.

“The legislation enables the Director-General of Conservation to introduce authorisation for whitebaiting in conservation areas if necessary in future, to better manage whitebaiting.

“We can’t ignore that of the six species that make up the whitebait fishery, four are threatened or at risk of extinction – giant kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, inanga and kōaro.

“Any new authorisation process will not come into force any earlier than two years after the bill becomes law. There will be public consultation on any changes to the whitebaiting regulations.

“We want to improve the prospects for all our indigenous wildlife and plants. The need for action to save our precious indigenous freshwater fish has never been greater. This bill is a step towards a future of healthy, sustainable freshwater fish populations,” said Eugenie Sage.

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