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DOC allows commercial fishing of endangered eels

27 January, 2010

DOC allows commercial fishing of endangered eels

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is allowing commercial fishers to harvest endangered eels from rivers on conservation land, the Green Party said today.

The Green Party has discovered that late last year DOC issued three concessions for commercial eel fishers to take eels from rivers located in the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy, Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Kevin Hague said.

“DOC would never dream of allowing commercial hunters to kill great spotted kiwi or little blue penguins. Our native eels are just as threatened, so why is DOC treating them differently?” Mr Hague asked.

Three species of eel are affected: the native longfin and shortfin eel, and the Australian longfin eel.

The native longfin eel is found nowhere else in the world and is listed by DOC as a threatened species in gradual decline, the same level of threat as the great spotted kiwi, little blue penguin, rifleman, and banded dotterel.

While the native shortfin eel is not endangered there are concerns that females of the species have been overfished relative to males, leaving an imbalance that could affect future numbers.

“Allowing commercial fishing of these eels on the conservation estate is an appalling decision by the government department charged with protecting our most threatened species,” Mr Hague said.

“It really begs the question of why DOC has done this. I would not be surprised if there is a revenue stream for DOC in granting these permits. Is the department so starved of funding that it is turning to desperate measures?

“It also shows that government departments aren’t talking to each other. DOC is trying to hide behind the fact that the eel fishery is administered by the Ministry of Fisheries, but only DOC has control over fishing permits on conservation land.

“Just yesterday John Key removed Tim Groser as Conservation Minister, saying he needed more time to focus on his Trade and Climate Change Negotiation portfolios.

“In fact he has done a disservice to the Conservation portfolio in presiding over decisions like this.

“One can only hope that the new Minister Kate Wilkinson will do a better job,” Mr Hague said.

References:
Answers to written questions to the Minister of Conservation showing that eel fishing permits have been issued on DOC land:

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QWA/f/4/c/QWA_18708_2009-18708-2009-Kevin-Hague-to-the-Minister-of-Conservation.htm

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QWA/7/e/9/QWA_18709_2009-18709-2009-Kevin-Hague-to-the-Minister-of-Conservation.htm

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QWA/a/d/6/QWA_18710_2009-18710-2009-Kevin-Hague-to-the-Minister-of-Conservation.htm

DOC’s classification of threatened species:
http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/documents/science-and-technical/sap236.pdf

ENDS

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