Mudfish move back

Tiny eel-like fish in a tank

September 26 2014. A rare native fish gets a new habitat as a highway project continues in the Waikato.

Native black mudfish were released into a newly built habitat, after spending time in storage tanks during construction of the Waikato Expressway.

The fish were discovered by ecologists during environmental investigations carried out before construction of the Rangiriri section of the expressway.

Students from Rangiriri School, local tangata whenua and invited guests attended the release of the fish.

Black mudfish are described by the Department of Conservation as “at risk, declining”. They have suffered significant habitat loss, with much of the Waikato wetlands drained by humans.

The species is remarkable for being able to survive out of water, sometimes for several months. They keep moist by burrowing into mud or leaf litter, and slow their metabolism until they return to water.

Construction of the expressway required removal of part of the mudfish habitat, but a new larger habitat was built in its place. The fish will be monitored by ecologists for three years.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Waikato highway manager, Kaye Clark, said the new habitat is double the size of the area they were found in.

“These black mudfish are a vital part of the wetland food chain and ecosystem and they are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, which is why it was vital we got their new home just right,” she said.

“The new habitat includes native plants and a winding stream channel, surrounded by shallower wetland areas.”

Waikato-Tainui chief executive Parekawhia McLean, said the protection and restoration of native fisheries was important to Waikato-Tainui.

“Having our local marae and school children involved in today's release, will ensure the ongoing support for our native fisheries into the future.”

More information

Full story and photos from the NZ Transport Agency

The Department of Conservation has more information, ideas on how to help, and a PDF factsheet:

Black Mudfish