Wanaka man Layton Craig is calling for more education about fishing rules in Lake Wanaka, after discovering several of Lake Wanaka’s giant eels are trailing long pieces of white string.
Mr Craig told The News he believed people have been illegally fishing from or near the Roys Bay jetty for the native tuna.
He posted several photos on social media on Monday after discovering the fish appeared to have string caught in their mouths.
He has reported the incident to the Department of Conservation and said he had been told they were not able to respond during Level 4 Covid-19 lockdown.
However, Doc staff told him they would respond as soon as the Covid levels allowed.
“Hopefully, they will be able to do something in Level 3 .. A little bit of education would not go amiss,” he said.
Central Otago community senior ranger Nicole Sutton said she was seeking a response about what Doc intended to do about the eels.
If people came across sick or injured wildlife during Covid-19 Levels 4 and 3, Doc’s emergency hotline (0800 DOC HOT) was operating as an essential service.
New Zealand’s longfin eels have been classified as decliningthreat classification system.
Lake Wanaka’s longfin tuna can grow up to two metres and live beyond 60 years.
They are often fed from the jetty and are a tourist attraction.
Otago Fish and Game Council ranger Paul Van Klink confirmed Otago fishing regulations banned fishing from the jetty, launch wharves and nearby water and shoreline.
The regulations were created to protect sport fish such as trout and salmon. Doc was the agency to respond to issues with eels, Mr Van Klink said.
Mr Craig said there had been a big response to his photos on social media.
Posts had mentioned seeing children fishing with bait and string in the area, he said.
Mr Craig said he found it a “little bit frustrating” that people might try to catch the eels.
Eels face major changes to their environment that limit their habitat and make it harder for them to swim to the sea to breed.
Lake Wanaka’s eels are assisted in their journey to the sea by fishermen contracted by Contact Energy to transfer them over the Roxburgh Dam in the Clutha River.
From there, they travel 5000km to breed in a region of the Pacific known as the Tonga Trench, between Fiji and New Caledonia.
In the 2020 season, Contact Energy fishermen caught nearly 500 large migrating eels across lakes Wanaka, Hawea and Wakatipu.
The fishermen caught and transferred about 400 during the 2021 season.