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The Department of Conservation (DOC)

DOC is responsible for native fish, including rare and endangered species. So we asked DOR ranger Pete Ravenscroft to give us more insight into their complex world.

DOC + galaxiids in detail

The Department of Conservation is the governmental agency responsible for natural conservation
Preservation of freshwater habitats and fauna is one of its many functions. DOC is bound to protect and manage both native and game fish, accordingly to the Conservation Act 1987.
Freshwater rangers do research, monitor and create management strategies for protecting native fish. These strategies include:
  • looking after unfenced river banks of agricultural land, 
  • installation of barriers to trout passage in some of headwaters, and 
  • eradicating invasive trout from some headwater streams.

Protected areas managed by DOC make up 1/3 of New Zealand land. However, in Otago DOC land accounts only for 12% of territory, so the majority of galaxiid populations are found on private land.

So DOC tries to engage public in protecting their native fish and develops education programmes. In Otago this is a programme called “Growing Otago Galaxiids”, which aims to partner schools and landowners to look after local streams with endangered fish.

Many of Otago’s galaxiids were discovered only recently and much about them is still a mystery. DOC rangers not only manage native fish, but collect new knowledge about native fish. Thanks to them, some galaxiids from Otago will obtain new species status soon.

Challenges. In order to protect our native galaxiids DOC wants to ensure that existing populations will be safe from predators. They hope to eradicate trout from some headwaters where galaxiids are common and trout are too small for angling.  Trout eradication even from a small stream is difficult. Electric fishing doesn’t ensure that all predators of native fish were caught. DOC suggests the fish poison rotenone* is an effective method of tout eradication; however, it is not widely implemented, due to the long approval process, cost and fear of lack of public understanding. 

A Recovery Plan for non-migratory galaxiids was developed and published in 2003; however, it was not fully implemented. 

Collaboration. DOC works with local government, like the Otago Regional Council (ORC). Together they work with farmers on the protection of galaxiidspawning sites.

DOC, ORC and Fish and Game collaborate on the construction of barriers between trout and galaxiid populations.

*Rotenone is a natural plant toxin used for centuries by indigenous people of Southeast Asia and South America for the harvesting of fish for human consumption. Rotenone is considered one of the most environmentally benign toxicants available and is commonly used to control unwanted fish species as well as garden pests.

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