Enhancement and management of eel fisheries affected by hydroelectric dams in New Zealand
Biology, Management, and Protection of Catadromous Eels
American Fisheries Society
Two freshwater anguillid eel species, Anguilla australis and A. dieffenbachia, form the basis of important traditional, recreational, and commercial fisheries in New Zealand. These fisheries have been affected by the damming of many of the major water-ways for hydroelectric generation. To create fisheries in reservoirs that would be otherwise inaccessible, elvers have been transferred from the base of dams into habitats upstream. Operations in three catchments: the Patea River (Lake Rotorangi), Waikato River (eight reservoirs notably the two lowermost, lakes Karapiro and Arapuni), and Rangitaiki River (lakes Matahina and Aniwhenua) are discussed. In all reservoirs, the transfers have successfully established fishable populations within six years of the first transfers and, in Lake Arapuni eels have reached the marketable size of 220 g in less than four years. In comparison, it typically takes from 13 to 17 years before eel populations are fishable in the lower Waikato River where direct access to the sea is available. Telemetry and monitoring at the screens and tailraces of several power stations have been used to determine migration timing, triggers, and pathways of mature eels. Successful downstream transfer of mature migrating adults has been achieved by spillway opening and netting in headraces during rain events in autumn, but means of preventing eels from impinging and entraining at the intakes are still required. An integrated, catchment-wide management system will be required to ensure sustainability of the fisheries.