In a major setback for the fishing industry, 921 native fish died in a botched transfer project.
The transfer, scheduled for earlier in July, involved the transfer of rare black mudfish and was organised by Carterton District Council under expert advice provided by Council consultants.
While comments from freshwater ecologist Angus McIntosh implied that trout could have been the cause of the fish loss, Wellington Fish & Game manager Phil Teal noted that there were no trout at the site and the failure was much more likely to be from poor habitat.
“This is a classic diversionary ‘red herring’ tactic to deflect attention away from a flawed process and mismanagement of an at-risk native species,” Teal said.
“Fish & Game have purchased and managed thousands of hectares of wetland not only for waterfowl habitat but also for native fish habitat.”
The wetland site at Daleton Road, Carterton is also used to discharge partially treated wastewater from the District Council Wasterwater Treatment.
COUNCIL WAS WARNED
Fish & Game says they warned that the new habitat would not be suited for the hundreds of at-risk native brown mudfish.
“We know what the habitat requirements are for native fish, and a Fish & Game senior scientist even advised the project co-ordinators last year that this project was not advisable, but his concerns were dismissed. Sadly, his predictions were proven correct,” Teal said.
The transfer project cost ratepayers $160,000 and the wildlife advocacy group says the public should demand an inquiry into what went wrong.
“We are keen to know how this project got the go-ahead, who was responsible for providing management advice, and funding approvals,” Teal said.
He added that the Department of Conservation should conduct an independent inquiry that “must cover the approvals, pre-release assessments, and investigating how the funding how this conservation project was managed.”
“If any member of the public had caused the loss of nearly 1000 mudfish, which fish experts say are as comparatively rare as great spotted kiwi, then there would be severe consequences,” he said.
Dave Gittings of Carterton District Council told Stuff that they were working to make sure the remaining mudfish in captivity had a suitable habitat to go to and they would be carrying more investigations to find out where they went wrong.
“Our intention was to do the best we could for the best environment outcome. That was always the goal. We were guided by the experts.”
He added that he had not been passed any information about Fish & Game’s prior concerns but the council had its own ecologists to oversee the project.