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A national-wide trout fishing and rivers advocacy organisation the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers has praised the Waikato Regional Council for its initiative to reduce mortality of eels as the fish pass through flood pump stations.

The regional council last year initiated a national research into the impact of flood control infrastructure on migratory native fish such as eels. Trials showed during eel migration up to all of female eels over 600 mm in length, migrating downstream to the sea would die travelling through existing pump stations.

Graham Carter president of the NZ Federation Freshwater Anglers said eels were an important part of the freshwater ecosystem of which trout were also a component.

“Predator-prey relationships are intertwined and natural predation ensures healthy populations of prey as predators tend to take inferior prey whether it be injured, sick or just runty,” he said. Graham Carter said trout anglers had noticed over recent decades substantial declines in eel populations. 

“It is no secret that trout populations have also declined due to deterioration in rivers in both quality of water and quantity of flow,” he commented. "Native fish and trout are losing their habitat and homes while the previous government pursued a policy of mad-cap corporate dairying expansion with massive irrigation schemes and heavy extraction f water from rivers plus farm nitrates leaching into the dwindling river flows.”

Graham Carter said some local council also was to blame for chemical-laden stormwater effluent and sewage being tipped into rivers.

“Consequently it’s refreshing to see a council like Waikato’s showing concern over in this case, eels,” he said.

He called on the Department of Conservation to advocate strongly for native fish by telling government it needed to stop commercial exploitation of fish such as eels and whitebait.

"DOC stands lamely by while eels and whitebait are shamelessly plundered for commercial gain,” he said.

The Federation of Freshwater Anglers strongly supported the restoration of healthy freshwater ecosystems. For that reason the Waikato Regional Council’s action was commendable.

Graham Carter President Federation of Freshwater Anglers