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Council puts Estuary fish under the microscope

22 November 2005

Trawlers in the Avon-Heathcote Estuary this month are not a sign of commercial fishing but of the first of several annual fish studies, commissioned by the Christchurch City Council.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has been contracted to do the research to help the Council determine the impacts of stormwater treatment improvements, recreational activities and the ocean outfall pipeline on the Estuary’s ecology and water quality.

The research will be particularly important in providing us with baseline data about the numbers, species and size of fish in the Estuary before wastewater is re-directed from the Estuary to the ocean outfall pipeline, Council Parks and Waterways planner Eric Banks said.

This year’s surveying which is expected to be completed within the next two weeks will involve NIWA catching, counting, identifying and releasing fish in the Estuary. The same will happen each November for the next two years and, depending on budgetary allocation through the Long Term Council Community Plan process, for three years after the pipeline installation.

Natural climate-induced fluctuations in fish numbers and changes in commercial fishing practises will be taken into account when the results are interpreted, Mr Banks said.

The Estuary is known to act as a nursery area for many fish species, particularly the commercially important flounders and provides an essential migration route for species such as freshwater eels, lamprey, common smelt and brown trout.

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