Eels more un­der threat than kiwi


‘‘I felt re­ally bad be­cause what did the eels do to them? They're slimy but they're still lov­able.’’

They live for 100 years, don’t breed un­til they’re 80 and are a threat­ened na­tive species - so why is it le­gal to kill six a day?

It’s the ques­tion Cam Cul­verDick­ens, 8, has for the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries and the peo­ple who left six dead and dy­ing eels float­ing in a Welling­ton stream on Wed­nes­day.

The Ti­tahi Bay School pupil was pic­nick­ing with his fam­ily at Wil­low­bank Re­serve when he saw a group of adults and chil­dren killing the eels.

‘‘When they left we found two in a plas­tic bag and four float­ing in the river with their heads bashed in, one was still alive but died.’’

‘‘I felt re­ally bad be­cause what did the eels do to them? They looked like long fin eels which are en­dan­gered and they were only lit­tle ones.

‘‘They’re slimy but they’re still lov­able, they were just so beau­ti­ful.’’

A spokes­woman for the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries, who over­see eel fish­ing in New Zealand said recreational fish­ers could catch six eels a day.

Com­mer­cial fish­ers could take up to 4 kilo­grams a day and faced fines, warn­ings or prose­cu­tions for catch­ing un­der-size eels.

The longfin eel was clas­si­fied as ‘at risk – de­clin­ing’ and the short­fin eel as ‘not threat­ened,’ she said.

New catch lim­its and al­lowances were be­ing re­viewed in the North Is­land and would be im­ple­mented in Oc­to­ber 2017.

But Cam’s mother, Amanda Dick­ens, said the idea peo­ple could kill a na­tive, threat­ened an­i­mal didn’t make any sense.

‘‘We don’t have enough of th­ese an­i­mals to go and bash in six eel’s heads.

‘‘I can un­der­stand cus­tom­ary rights [which al­low Maori to catch eels] but to al­low peo­ple to kill them for noth­ing is crazy.’’

Man­ager of Kapiti’s Nga Manu Na­ture Re­serve Matu Booth warned eels could ‘‘eas­ily move to­wards ex­tinc­tion.’’

‘‘They have the same threat­ened sta­tus as kiwi but th­ese guys can be com­mer­cially caught. The threats to them are higher than kiwi.’’

Eels had an un­de­served bad rap, he said.

‘‘They live in the same stream for hun­dreds of years then they’ll have an urge to mi­grate to some­where in the Pa­cific, south of Tonga, where they breed.

‘‘They’re amaz­ing. Our chil­dren have re­alised that.’’

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