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Maori Party calls for action to protect long-finned eels

The Hon Dr Pita Sharples
Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Tamaki Makaurau

17 April 2013

Maori Party calls for urgent action to protect long-finned eels

The long-finned eel is of huge significance to tangata whenua, especially inland tribes, and threats to its existence demand urgent attention, said Maori Party Co-leader Dr Pita Sharples.

“Our tipuna carefully protected and jealously guarded healthy populations of eels, because their mana depended on it,” said Dr Sharples. “Tuna have been a reliable source of food, and of tribal honour and pride that comes from offering visitors the finest of local delicacies. Any threat to the eels are a threat to the identity and mana of the iwi and hapu who have a responsibility to protect them,” he said.

“Today’s report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says long-finned eels are becoming endangered, and there are some specific actions we can take to protect this iconic species.”

“A rāhui on commercial fishing is a top priority. This long-lived species breeds only once in its lifetime, so every remaining adult eel is vital to their long-term survival. It is outrageous that people are still catching them for profit.

“Long-finned eels also require clean water with reasonable flows. They have been seriously affected by water abstraction, sedimentation and pollution. The onus is on regional councils to set and enforce water flow regimes that maintain healthy habitats for eels.

“The recent drought has shown that a number of councils have over-allocated water for irrigation of farms and allowed major rivers to dry up completely. Pollution and sedimentation caused by excessive fertiliser or cattle entering waterways is another serious problem, one that is particularly related to intensive dairy farming. These are serious failures of the Resource Management Act, and councils have to step up to protect the public’s interests in the natural environment.”

“Barriers to eel migration require more work to resolve, but bypass streams and fish ladders can be built to allow the eels to complete their life cycle. Planning and budgeting needs to start immediately, while we still have some eels in our rivers.”

“Long-finned eels are key indicators of the health of our natural aquatic ecosystems. Eels have huge cultural significance to Maori, and their decline shows that the current resource management system is not protecting Maori interests properly. This is why tangata whenua demand a proper role as decision-makers in resource management, for the benefit of the eels, the wider environment, local communities, and future generations,” said Dr Sharples.

ENDS

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