Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Giant Eel Comes to Parliament

Giant Eel Comes to Parliament

New Zealand Threatened Species Delivers Petition

WELLNGTON, NEW ZEALAND. On Tuesday 19 at 12.30 pm a nearly 200 metre longfin eel made of recycled cloth constructed by thousands of people within and beyond New Zealand will be carried to Parliament to deliver the 5000 plus signature Lifeline for Longfins petition to Green MP Eugenie Sage.

United States’ artist and educator, Stephanie Bowman, began the taniwha-sized social art project four years ago when she learned that New Zealand’s longfin eel, an endemic and iconic species of freshwater fish, was allowed to be commercially fished in spite of it being a species threatened with extinction.

“I first visited New Zealand as a tourist with my son, and believed it to be the ‘clean, green, 100% pure’ country that it promotes itself to be. Then, I looked past the blue waters and bucolic green hills and noticed signs warning folks not to swim for their own safety and I began asking questions about the state of New Zealand’s famous fresh water and was shocked at what I learned about the degraded state of its ecosystems.” Bowman said.

“When I asked people who worked for the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Fisheries (now the re-named Ministry of Primary Industries), and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research about the fact that a unique and threatened species could still be commercially fished for export they often became alarmed, closing office doors and speaking in hushed voices about risking their jobs if they were to publically speak out about the plight of the tuna (the Maori word for eel).”

After learning of the situation the artist and Biology teacher felt compelled to write and illustrate a children’s story, Velvet & Elvis: A Mother & Son Story of New Zealand’s Longfin Eel, in order to educate New Zealand children about the longfin and raise awareness for the declining state of New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems as a whole. Next, she instigated the making of the giant fabric Velvet-the-eel that will arrive at New Zealand’s Parliament on Tuesday.

The tapestry not only depicts a velvety longfin eel, but also showcases the great diversity of wildlife found in New Zealand’s water. School groups, museums, and individuals all around the country, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, added panels to the tapestry as it travelled around New Zealand during the past two years. An estimated 5000 individuals have so far have been involved in the creation of the approximately 100 panels that make up the quilt. Each panel is about two metres long; the size of the largest female longfins when they, some a century old, finally reach maturity. A full account of tapestry participants can be found in the Save the Eels Blog.

On March 19th Stephanie and concerned citizens will assemble at 12:00 noon at the Cenotaph beside Parliament's driveway entrance in Wellington to carry the huge, snakelike fish to the steps of Parliament to present the eel’s petition. The petition calls for a moratorium to be placed on the commercial fishing of the longfin eel. The petition was begun by Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, Manaaki Tuna, and ECO and to date well over 5000 signatures have been added to it.

University of Massey scientist Dr. Mike Joy explains the importance of the petition, saying “a glitch in New Zealand's conservation laws still allows large numbers of eels to be harvested from the wild every year. People think that New Zealand’s Quota Management System prevents unsustainable fishing practises but this is really quite far from the truth - no longfin eel quota has ever even come close to being met – how can management like this have any impact on controlling harvest levels?", adding, "with all the additional threats eels are facing, in my opinion, extinction is inevitable if they continue to be commercially fished at current levels.

The March 19th event will kick off at 12:30 p.m. when local band Bella Cajon plays lively music for the eel as it winds its way up the sinewy, eel-like driveway from Lambton Quay to Parliament House forecourt. After the petition is presented project creator Stephanie Bowman, ecologist, Dr. Mike Joy, environmental scientist Caleb Royal from Te Wananga o Raukawa, and ex-eeler Sam Ludden will each speak. Eugenie Sage and other M.P.s are expected to say a few words as well. At 1:30 pm the giant eel will be carried back to Te Papa where it has been on display for the past month.

On March 18, at 9:30 AM there will be a closing blessing for the tuna tapestry at Te Papa in the Bush City kiosk on Level 2, followed by a book signing of Velvet and Elvis.

After the 19th, Velvet’s Travelling Tuna Tapestry will be looking for someone to sail her to Tonga and back, a journey to honour the longfin’s epic journey which it incredibly makes twice in its life. Finally, the tapestry will be on permanent, public display at the new National Wetland Centre near Waikato. Any groups who made a panel may then visit the Centre to see and/or reclaim their piece of this gigantic social art project.
Stephanie Bowman: He Wahine Tuna

Stephanie was raised in The United States in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley by a father who took her fishing by canoe in the secret tributaries of the Shenandoah River. He taught her and her sisters kaitiakitanga. He didn't know that word, but he instilled in his daughters the idea that one should leave a place in better shape than it was in when one arrived there. The American Eel swam in those waters of Stephanie’s childhood backyard and she is embarrassed to admit that she (like many Kiwis and their longfin) knew nothing then about her native eels' life and their long heke to and from the Sargasso Sea. The American Eel is no longer thriving in the Shenandoah mostly due to prior commercial fishing and habitat loss.

Stephanie likes to joke that she began to travel to and from New Zealand for a Kiwi man, and ended up falling in love with eels instead. On her second visit to Aotearoa in 2010, she learned of the presence of the iconic, endemic, mysterious, and once-common eel in New Zealand's freshwaters. She was shocked to learn that it was also a species threatened with extinction (just like the cherished great spotted kiwi) yet still commercially fished and exported to give other countries products ranging from sushi to “environmentally friendly” dog food. “When I can go to an restaurant in Tucson or Tokyo and ignorantly order an animal that is going extinct, or even unknowingly feed it to my dog, I think it is time to take action and make others aware; even if some commercial eelers in New Zealand think I should shut up and mind my own business. What I eat is my business”, Stephanie insists. Stephanie got so involved with the eels that she quit her job teaching biology and spent some of the next year in NZ doing research for her children's book, Velvet & Elvis: A Mother and Son Story of New Zealand’s Longfin Eel. During that research, Stephanie found that informed Kiwis were afraid to talk about the reality of the longfin's future, fearing that they might lose their jobs with DOC, The Ministry of Fisheries (now the Ministry of Primary Industries), and NIWA. Stephanie recalls that even the Minister of the Ministry of Fisheries Phil Heatley, “when asked to meet me in February of 2011, stated that he was out of town but was in fact hiding in his Whangarei office."

While working on the book, to save money, Stephanie lived in a caravan in the Sonoran desert. “My son, Zane, slept in a cabinet!,” she recalls of that frugal time. Stephanie recently funded the publishing of the book by Papawai Press through a Kickstarter campaign in which over 80 individuals donated money to get the book in print for this March. To help spread the word about the longfin Stephanie also spent three months as Te Tuna Wahine (The Eel Woman) travelling all over NZ in early 2011 sharing the story of Velvet and Elvis in schools, museums, and parks. She was joined by a homemade longfin sock puppet and a growing, Travelling Tuna Tapestry that, thanks to many Kiwi hands, is now about 200 metres long and ready to help deliver the tuna petition to Parliament on March 19.

Stephanie credits te tuna with big changes in her career and personal life. Her efforts towards saving the longfin eel actually led her to her marriage with fellow-conservationist, Paul Hamilton, and to her current soul-fulfilling work as President of the Board of Directors of The Biodiversity Group, an international non-profit organization based in the States that focuses on conserving species that are usually overlooked. Additionally, the tuna project led Stephanie to instigate a similar tapestry project called Sewing Spots Together which was created for Defenders of Wildlife, who needed a social art project to raise awareness for the plight of the endangered jaguar.
Stephanie states, “My hope was and is that the eel book and tapestry will inspire curiosity and compassion for these misunderstood and often-abused creatures and help New Zealander's recognize and conserve the treasure that is swimming through their backyards before it too is lost forever. I hope that in my lifetime I will see the mauri returned to the wai of New Zealand.”

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Parliament Kicks Off: Carter Re-Elected Speaker

The 51st Parliament held its commission opening today with MPs sworn in and David Carter elected Speaker.

The day began at 11am with the three Royal Commissioners – the Chief Justice, the Court of Appeal President, and the Chief High Court Judge – declaring the new Parliament open.

After the Commissioners left the Chamber the swearing in of MPs took place in alphabetical order. Unlike some previous openings all MPs managed to swear on the bible or affirm their oath without any hiccups... More>>

 

Labour: Review Team Named, Leadership Campaign Starts

Labour’s New Zealand Council has appointed Bryan Gould as Convenor of its post-General Election Review. He will be joined on the Review Team by Hon Margaret Wilson, Stacey Morrison and Brian Corban.

ALSO:


Roy Morgan Poll: National Slips, Labour Hits Lows

The first New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll since the NZ Election shows National 43.5% (down 3.54% since the September 20 Election). This isn’t unusual, National support has dropped after each of John Key’s Election victories... However, support for the main opposition Labour Party has crashed to 22.5% (down 2.63% and the lowest support for Labour since the 1914 NZ Election as United Labour). More>>

ALSO:

In On First Round: New Zealand Wins Security Council Seat

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed New Zealand securing a place on the United Nations Security Council for the 2015-16 term. More>>

ALSO:

TPP Leak: Intellectual Property Text Confirms Risk - Jane Kelsey

The US is continuing its assault on generic medicines through numerous proposed changes to patent laws. ‘These are bound to impact on Pharmac if they are accepted’, according to Professor Kelsey... Copyright is another area of ongoing sensitivity... More>>

ALSO:

RMA: Smith Plans Reform To Ease Urban Development

Newly appointed Environment Minister Nick Smith has announced Resource Management Act reform to foster urban development, where high land prices and expensive resource consents are blocking efforts to provide affordable housing. More>>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On New Zealand getting involved (again) in other people's wars

Apparently, the Key government is still pondering how New Zealand will contribute to the fight against Islamic State. Long may it ponder, given the lack of consensus among our allies as to how to fight IS, where to fight it (Syria, Iraq, or both?) and with whose ground troops, pray tell? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On child poverty, and David Shearer’s latest outburst

The politicisation of (a) the public service and (b) the operations of the Official Information Act have been highlighted by the policy advice package on child poverty that RNZ’s resolute political editor Brent Edwards has finally prised out of the Ministry of Social Development. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On the government’s review of security laws

So the Key government is about to launch a four week review of the ability of our existing legislation to deal with “suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters, and other violent extremists.”

According to its terms of reference, the review will consider whether the SIS, GCSB and Police are sufficiently able right now to (a) investigate and monitor suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters… More>>

ALSO:

Labour Davids: Lisa Owen Interviews David Shearer

David Shearer still mulling whether to stand for Labour leadership but says his family doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Declares that it will be “incredibly divisive” for the Labour caucus if David Cunliffe returns to the role of leader. More>>

ALSO:

Taser Use & False Evidence: Timaru Officers "Failed To Follow Good Policing Practice"

The Authority found that even if Mr Reuben’s contact with the officer was deliberate it amounted to only a minor assault. While it found the use of the OC spray was justified, the use of the Taser was not a proportionate response... More>>

ALSO:

Little Surprise: Andrew Little To Contest Labour Leadership

I have decided to contest the Labour Party leadership. There are three immediate issues to deal with: creating greater cohesion across the caucus, rebuilding the relationship between caucus and the Party and, most importantly getting the process under way to listen to the voters who have abandoned us... More>>

ALSO:

Two Fewer Votes In Recount: "Positive Result" - Harawira

When I applied for a recount of the votes from the Tai Tokerau election, I made it clear that this application was not aimed at overturning the election result, but ensuring that all votes cast by Maori were treated with due respect, regardless of whether those votes are for Labour, Maori Party or MANA. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news