Electrofishing at Kaituna

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Late last year, over 20 Kaituna Valley locals explored the Kaituna River as part of a fieldtrip organised by Environment Canterbury. Sylvia McAslan, Environment Canterbury Land Management Advisor, organised the outing so local people could learn about the fish that live in the river and she says the level of interest and interaction was excellent.

Sylvia was joined by fellow Environment Canterbury staff, Michaela Rees, Duncan Gray, Sian Barbour and Jarred Arthur, who caught fish through a process of electrofishing, releasing back to their environment after discussion.

Electrofishing involves adding a small electrical current to the water which temporarily stops fish from moving, enabling them to be netted. The fish are briefly held in a bucket to determine abundance, density and species variation, then returned to the water.

Sylvia says that Environment Canterbury ecologists did a sterling job catching and talking about the invertebrates, explaining the process of electrofishing, and talking about the caught fish before returning them to the river.

“The ecologists also fielded a variety of questions about habitat, change of land use, effects on water quality, results of water sampling, and the ‘ideal’ for the river,” she says.

The day was funded by Whakaora Te Waihora and David Murphy, Programme Manager, who says the aim was to give locals the opportunity to learn more about the ecosystem of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

“An important part to restoring the lake is having locals understand its unique history and ecological elements and by funding such programmes we can provide education which will help locals understand the work we are undertaking,” he says.

“By funding these projects it is hoped we will have more local involvement in the restoration,” says David.

The species ‘caught’ on the day included upland bullies, trout, longfin eels and freshwater mussels; a good snapshot of what lies beneath in the Kaituna; and Sylvia says she was not surprised by the good local support on the day.

”The Kaituna Valley community – is very motivated to preserve its catchment, which runs from Mt Herbert to Te Waihora. They’re especially invested in the stewardship of the Kaituna River, which was emphasised by their participation in a 12-month water sampling programme that ended in October 2015,” Sylvia says.
It is expected that a similar electrofishing field trip will be repeated in a few years’ time to monitor any changes taking place in the lake and river waters.