Rare native fish found on farm

Last updated 06:32 26/03/2014

UP CLOSE: A mudfish at the Foley farm.

CATCH OF THE DAY: Pauline Robertson, from the biodiversity team at ECan, and farmer Rory Foley inspect the large mudfish population found near Foley's farm.

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A farm restoration project has led to a fishy discovery for Rory Foley.

Foley has a deer farm in the Hook catchment, near Waimate in South Canterbury.

He has spent the past few years improving parts of the catchment that were previously degraded.

However, the efforts have also led to an unlikely spin-off effect, which was only discovered in the past couple of months: the area is now home to rare mudfish.

"I've been riparian planting and fencing to make the environment better, but I never expected a mini-aquarium to sprout up," Foley said.

Environment Canterbury biodiversity officer Kennedy Lange said the discovery was a pleasant surprise.

"We found them in a number of small pools in creeks on Rory's farm. We have not finished survey yet and hope we will find more," Lange said.

"At this site, we will be looking at the usual things we do like fencing and planting, but in a way that maximises the benefit to this species. This includes looking carefully at how plant placement will shade the water: mudfish like good cover, but not too much."

The New Zealand mudfish is listed on the Conservation Department's threatened species register.

It is considered unique because it can survive without water for about two months, as long as it has vegetative cover to keep moist.

Lange said mudfish habitats had been threatened by the straightening of streams, land drainage and development, as well as declining water quality.

"Mudfish like things muddy on the bottom and tend to hang out in waterways that dry out from time to time. They cope with drying streams by burrowing down into the mud where they will rest up for long periods until the water returns," Lange said.

"Rory's place has the pooled slow flowing and low gradient streams that typify mudfish habitat - it's a large population with a range of sizes indication that they are breeding pretty well."

Foley said he would continue his usual restoration projects, but he might take greater notice of the mudfish.

"There seems to be dozens of them swimming around. It's a really positive development. I want to make the environment healthier than it was. It's all about being a good servant of the land."

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- The Timaru Herald


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