30 Apr 2012

Native eels heading for extinction

8:33 am on 30 April 2012

A freshwater scientist warns that native eels are heading for extinction because councils, power companies and farmers are flouting laws designed to protect them.

Maori in Northland are worried about dwindling numbers of long-fin eels and Dr Mike Joy of Massey University says they have reason to be.

Dr Joy says it is bizarre that New Zealand's only native eel, the long-fin, is on the endangered list - yet it is still fished commercially.

He says eels migrating downstream to breed are being killed in hydro and irrigation schemes or chopped to pieces in flood pumps.

Dr Joy says pollution and loss of habitat are also factors in the drop in numbers, but laws that say fish must have safe passage in waterways are never enforced.

He says animals that breed just once in mass spawning events can become extinct without apparent warning - and that may be very close for the native long-fin.