They may be tiny, slimy and reclusive, but the Canterbury mudfish are well worth protecting.
Kōwaro, as they’re named in te reo Māori, are a treasured species for local iwi Ngāi Tahu and having more of them around helps protect other freshwater natives such as kōura (crayfish) and kākahi (mussels).
Unfortunately, they’re also rare and endangered.
Fonterra is providing funding to Environment Canterbury to help them implement innovative technology in what is the first project of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
The installation of an electric trout barrier will allow mudfish to expand into the lower reaches of the site and stop the predation by trout, helping to create a safe nursery for future projects and replenishing drought-affected areas.
It will lead to a 10-fold increase in spring-fed stream habitat for the threatened mudfish – going from 880m2 to 8,000m2 – in the Waikirikiri/Selwyn River catchment.
Environment Canterbury believe the technology could revolutionise native fish conservation at sites threatened by trout across the region.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Fonterra on this exciting – and ground-breaking – conservation project,” says Johannes Welsch, Environment Canterbury’s Selwyn Waihora Zone Delivery Lead.
“Working collaboratively in this way is a perfect example of how, by joining forces, we can make biodiversity and species protection not just a priority, but a practical reality.”
The project is expected to be complete early May 2019, one year after its launch.
Fonterra’s overall work to improve water quality in New Zealand is centred around six commitments, which continue to drive action across the country. Ongoing guidance is provided by the co-operative’s independent Sustainability Advisory Panel, chaired by Sir Rob Fenwick.