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Lucky Escape For Rare Native Birds

Rare birds found ensnared in a fishing net at Lake Wairarapa last week were lucky to be released unscathed thanks to some prompt action by Wellington Fish & Game staff.

The three rare Little Black Shags were spotted by a member of the public walking his dog at Lake Domain on the northern shore of Lake Wairarapa.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) didn’t have appropriately qualified staff available so local Fish & Game staff raced to the rescue. The birds were cut free and they swam away.

While Wellington Fish & Game’s jurisdiction centres around game birds, manager Phil Teal says his organisation is happy to help out DOC and iwi when it can.

“Lake Wairarapa is a hub for our waterfowl species, and the game bird hunting tradition there is well over a century old and runs through four or five generations.

“As such, we do a lot of work down there and regularly have staff around monitoring waterfowl populations, enhancing the wetlands and working on water reticulation to improve water quality before it enters the lake.

“It’s good that staff can help out in this way – we’ve always pointed out the work we do benefits not just game birds and hunters but native species too; I guess this a very tangible example of that.”

Mr Teal says the rescue highlights the need for vigilance around set nets.

“Anyone using nets should only set them at dusk and retrieve them before dawn to avoid such by-catch. It’s too easy for waterfowl and sea-birds to become tangled in nets when they’re feeding on the lake during the day.

“The net in question had clearly been left unattended for days – that’s really irresponsible.”

As well as the Little Black Shags, Mr Teal says three trout were also found in the net, all dead.

“Catching protected recreational sports fish through non-sanctioned methods carries big fines. After this incident I’ve informed my staff to increase their vigilance around what is effectively poaching and we’ll prosecute anyone caught taking trout from set nets.”

Mr Teal points out that anyone who catches a sport fish – such as trout or perch – in a set net is legally obliged to return it, dead or alive.

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