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Eel deaths still under investigation

14 Mar 2012

Eel deaths still under investigation

The recent case of eel deaths in the Awapuni Stream is still under investigation but discovering what has caused the deaths is not proving easy.

Council takes any deaths to aquatic life very seriously, says water conservation team leader Dennis Crone. “We are determined to find out what has happened to these large, mature eels. Within 24 hours of any reported fish deaths a site investigation is completed. In this case staff visited the site last Thursday (8 March) and water samples were taken. These samples have been sent to a laboratory in Hamilton where a broad range of agrichemicals will be tested for.”

“Advice has been sought from the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). MAF have expertise in completing toxicology investigations and they are likely to get some samples analysed by the Veterinary Science Department at Massey University.”

In the meantime the public are being warned to avoid eating eels taken from the Awapuni Stream/Sisterson lagoon area. At this stage the cause of the death is unknown, says the Medical Officer of Health at Tairawhiti District Health Dr Geoff Cramp. “The eels are reported to be sluggish and some have died. Until the deaths have been investigated, I am recommending caution when eating eels from this location.”

Our regular water quality testing will be completed this week, says Mr Crone. “This is part of a district wide monitoring programme and the results will identify any high levels of nutrients, any abnormal coliform levels and a range of other factors. Over 20 parameters are tested for at the Sisterson lagoon site. This site requires more than the usual testing regime due to the industry nearby and the ecological value placed on the lagoon. At this point we simply do not know whether the deaths have occurred as a result of an accidental or deliberate spill, or from another cause.”

“We have also held a meeting with local fisheries scientists Ian and Bill Ruru. They are proposing a four-year monitoring programme that acknowledges the role that eel can play in assessing the health of waterways. Council will consider supporting this programme. The cost of this work is not clear at this point. We may seek external funding possibly through an Envirolink Government Grant."

“Keeping our waterways healthy is high priority for Council. Working with MAF, tangata whenua and local communities we can ensure a rapid response when events like the eel deaths occur. If people suspect any contamination of waterways has occurred I encourage them to contact the Gisborne District Council immediately. Calls will be taken 24/7. They will be treated as confidential and can be anonymous.