Joint project aims to protect mudfish

A five-year project aimed at reversing the decline of the rare Canterbury mudfish is being planned by the Lower Waitaki River Management Society, with backing from the Department of Conservation.

The society is searching for suitable wetland sites in the lower Waitaki River region that could support threatened native species, such as Canterbury mudfish, and maintain some biodiversity in the district.

Society chairman Ian McIlraith said habitat loss and degradation had resulted in a rapid decline of mudfish populations.

''The objective is to identify some key sites to be prioritised for protection in order to secure sufficient populations to reduce the threatened national status of the species,'' he said.

River margins on the south bank of the Waitaki River were of most interest.

The society would develop new projects in support of the department's goals. It had funding from the department spread over five years, but would not reveal how much. It was sufficient to support a part-time co-ordinator.

The long-term recovery goal was for the geographic range, habitat and genetic diversity of all mudfish species to be maintained and improved.

While many areas of wetland habitat were located in private land, potentially subject to future land development, the new work was looking at management alongside landowners of key sites for mudfish habitat, he said.

This included managing vegetation, securing sites from new pest-fish invasion and water levels.

Already, the Duntroon Wetland enhancement project was a district example of what could be achieved with some excellent community support and management to help protect an environmental asset, Mr McIlraith said.

Sites of primary interest for the society to further investigate included some areas near the coast, near State Highway 1 and Ferry Rd in North Otago.

The society would be seeking community support and input from other interested people and organisations to assist in the establishment of some small but important habitat developments, he said.

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