Selwyn river rescue

by Kent Caddick

Around 40 volunteers have spent the day rescuing fish and eels from isolated pools along the isappearing Selwyn River.

Starting at the once-popular swimming hole at Coes Ford, the volunteers walked down the river with nets, looking for water holes filled with stranded eels and fish.

The event was organised by Environment Canterbury biodiversity officer Johannes Welsch, and the volunteers were joined by Department of Conservation and Selwyn District Council staff as well as local iwi in the rescue mission.

“I was really surprised at the turn out of rescuers given it was such short notice,” Mr Welsch said. “We had a wide range of people who turned up to help with the fish rescue, everything from families with young children through to grandparents who helped out.

“One of the exciting things for me, was to see it wasn’t just older people who were involved in the fish rescue but it was a multi-generational effort, it was the whole community coming together to help out.”

He said the Selwyn River has been drying up for some time and they have been keeping an eye on the development of the isolated puddles along the river.

“I got a call from our river engineers who said they had noticed there were a growing number of isolated puddles particularly around the Coes Ford area and that we needed to get the fish and eels out and to safety.”

They rescued about 2,500 inaka (juvenile fish) and 300 eels, which had become trapped in the diminishing puddles while headed for Lake Ellesmere. The endangered longfin eels travel through the lake and out to sea where they breed.

The eels and fish that were rescued from the pools along the Selwyn River were then relocated to the lake. “The eels were a real focus for us and we made several sweeps up and down the river to ensure we got as many as we could,” Mr Welsch said.

              Volunteers rescuing inaka and eels from pools along the dried up 
                                                  Selwyn River bed 

“Once we had rescued the eels from the puddles they were put in cool aerated storage tanks and then ferried downstream to the lake.”

He said they are hoping they do not need to mount another rescue operation but a lot of that will depend on weather conditions.

Meanwhile, the Selwyn Waihora Zone Committee is looking into the possibility of using water from the Central Plains Water scheme to help boost the flow of water into the Selwyn River.

The committee recently hosted a workshop in Lincoln to discuss concerns over the river’s flow particularly around Coes Ford. Following the workshop the zone committee agreed to look further into using CPW water to help flush the river.