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Eelers threatening native species

Eelers threatening native species


by Jane de Jong

Oakley Creek needs ‘urgent’ signage to stop fishers endangering its eel population, says Friends of Oakley Creek Chairperson Wendy John.

John says the creek’s rapidly declining eel count could mean it is soon eel-less, if people do not start taking action.

“If we wait too long we will end up with no more eels old enough to breed. It’s urgent, and critical.”

New Zealand’s native longfin eels breed at the end of their lifespan, swimming upshore to warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean when they are 30 to 80 years old.

John has made an application to the Auckland City Council to get signage up, that explains the native eels are a threatened species.

“If people don’t understand about conservation and bio-diversity then they may not know not to eel.”

Education, she says, is the best way to save the fish.

“It’s about education, not just educating those who are eeling, but also the wider community to look out for it and be aware of the issue. Community pressure is one of the main ways to stop it, we need to empower the community to be involved.”

She believes eeling is mostly occuring in Oakley Creek Reserve’s walkway, and at Allan Wood Reserve.

“There’s a variety of people eeling in the creek, I suspect some of them would be new immigrants. I’ve seen people down there with bags and buckets filled with eels.

The signs need to be multilingual, and visually standout like the signs at Western Springs, she says.

John has put in a slips application to the Auckland City Council, and says if the council actions her request it will estimate the signage costs and determine funding.

She says she’d also like the Eden Albert Community Board and the Avondale Community board to assist with funding, because, “it will encourage the boards to get more involved in the community and have a sense of ownership.”

Eden Albert Community Board Councillor Glenda Fryer suggested the group steps around council red-tape and make their own signs.

“The council process always takes far too long. You’re better off doing something about it yourselves.”

She added that the board may be able to help build emergency signs with discretionary funding.

Home to 15,000 native plants, Oakley Creek spans 15 kilometres from Mt Roskill to the Waitemata Harbour and is entirely open to members of the public.

Friends of Oakley Creek is a community group working to re-establish the creek as a natural waterway.

John quotes Part 20 of the Auckland City Consolidated Bylaw (1998), which states it is illegal to kill or injure any animal in a public place, including all lakes in the Auckland city area. Offenders can be fined up to $500.

*************

Jane de Jong is a Journalism Student at AUT

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