National | Fish

Fish-friendly pump keeping tuna numbers up and free of harm

A new fish-friendly pump is helping native fish to safely passage downstream on Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua land in Waikato.

Tuna live in streams and drains for many decades but breed once in their lifetime out at sea.

Water pumped through the new Mangawhero Pump Station enters a lake on the iwi-owned, 10-hectare property before joining the Waikato River. It’s part of Waikato Regional Council’s upgrade of five pumps in Waikato catchments.

Some 160 tuna were tagged during their migration season, which occurred during the recent downpour and flooding. But Roimata Minhinnick (Ngāti Te Ata) says despite the earlier-than-usual migration, the results meant that the pump is correctly doing what it’s meant to do.

He also says all 124 of the old pumps in the Waikato were terminating “any tuna seeking to return to the river to migrate”.

Several reports from 2018 indicated that large numbers of eels were being killed while swimming through council-run pumping stations.

“If you can just imagine the tonnes of tuna that are migrating at that time, they just don’t make it. That means [with] the old pumps there is a high mortality rate.”

Before the pump’s construction, the lake was also a tuna reserve because of declining numbers and a decrease in the size of the tuna, with a rāhui placed on it to help sustain the fish.

It’s also seen an opportunity to involve rangatahi to know how and where their kai comes from, learning traditional methods to collect it while also protecting te taiao.

“I think part of that is kōrero tuku iho, it’s information that’s been passed on about some of those traditional practices that our tūpuna did.

“You’re not catching fish, you’re going at the right time and basically placing them in your care.”


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