We all need swimmable rivers

We are not the only ones that want clean rivers to swim in. While the National government tries to redefine what clean water means, the creatures deprived of it have to live with the consequences.

Most of the things that make the water bad for us to swim in make it worse for fish to live in. Many things make up swimmable, healthy waterways. It’s not just about the poo. Too much nutrient input causes the proliferation of algae and nuisance plants. When these grow out of control in a waterway, oxygen is depleted. Healthy levels of oxygen are vital for stream life so when oxygen levels drop too much, fish die. Sedimentation fills up the places that our fish like to live – in between the gaps in the riverbed. Sedimentation also fills our swimming holes. The removal of riverside vegetation destroys breeding grounds for fish and destroys the natural beauty of these places. Part of what makes rivers and streams healthy is having abundant fish life. However, the National government’s policy on freshwater management fails to limit the degradation of these species’ habitats by not including appropriate ecological standards.

And on top of all these things that make water uninhabitable for fish, is the threat of commercial exploitation.

While we often vilify other countries for consuming their cherished creatures, we cannot pretend to be free from such atrocities ourselves. In case you haven’t heard, New Zealand whitebait is made up of threatened species.

It’s time New Zealand took a stand against those who would pilfer its’ natural bounty for cash. Those who take from the common kete and pocket the proceeds. While the recreational fishermen do it for pleasure and a simple feed, commercial whitebaiters do it for the dosh.

If commercial industries were taking any other species with the same threat rankings as whitebait, we would call them poachers. But for the open season on baby Galaxias, they head down to the river and pull thousands upon thousands of endangered animals from the river. All day. For the three months of the year that they run.

New Zealand already has the highest proportion of endangered freshwater fish in the world. 74%. Is that something to be proud of? The Department of Conservation are the ones that classified these species as threatened. At the same time, they claim there are not enough data to stop commercial fishing. Should we be proud of the fact that our Department of Conservation – managers of the whitebait fishery – will not take even the simplest step of stopping the sale of species as endangered as some kiwi?

It’s time New Zealand took a stand against those who would steal from future generations. Steal from them a tradition that has become uniquely Kiwi. If something is not done to stop the decline of these species, they will be gone by 2050. No longer will Kiwis be able to partake in this recreational pursuit.

Soon we will be submitting a petition to Parliament asking them to make this stand. We would love your support, both a signature and to write to Hon Maggie Barry, Minister for Conservation, to tell her that the sale of endangered species is unacceptable.

Let’s protect these species for our future.

Write to Maggie Barry at: m.barry@ministers.govt.nz

Sign the petition here.


By Kyleisha Foote & Pierce McNie

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