Pātiki monitoring on Te Waihora

Hannah Mitchell and MichaelKo ngā hau ki ētahi wāhi, ko ngā kai ki Orariki  – No matter which way the wind blows you will always eat at the pā of Orariki, Taumutu

Te Waihora was once famous for its abundant mahinga kai – particularly pātiki – but how is the flounder fishing now?

In May, a team organised by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, set nets at a range of sites around the western side of the lake in beautiful autumnal weather. The work is part of the Whakaora Te Waihora programme aimed at restoring the lake, particularly the quantity and quality of mahinga kai.

The target species for the day were pātiki. There are three species of pātiki common in the lake. Black flounder and Yellowbelly flounder were caught in reasonable numbers, but no sand flounder. Black Flounder are found only in New Zealand, and are unlike other flounder in that they live happily in freshwater, and have been found up to 100km up inland streams. Yellowbelly and Sand Flounder prefer brackish water, as is found in Te Waihora, and coastal marine areas.

Interestingly, a number of other species including dogfish and a red cod were caught in the monitoring nets as by-catch. These are marine species that had come into the lake through the temporary artificial opening to the sea, and are not your usual catch in the lake.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is monitoring a range of sites that includes areas closed off to commercial and recreational fishing, where only customary fishing is permitted. As monitoring is still in its early stages it is too soon to predict results and determine whether the fishing restrictions are delivering more fish for customary fishers. Monitoring will be carried out again at the same sites later in the year to see seasonal differences, as some pātiki leave the lake to spawn out at sea in spring.

If you would like more information about the monitoring work in Te Waihora, contact Sophie Allen on (03) 974 0197 or sophie.allen@ngaitahu.iwi.nz