It's been a busy couple of weeks in our Urban Eel project. Our Lady of the Assumption School students have been working on their actions to help create positive changes for our eels, and the streams that they inhabit.
One group of students- Milan, Xhin and Savanna - wrote a letter to Meridian to ask about eel barriers to migration. It was well written and researched, as you will be able to see below:
To Whom it May Concern,
We are writing this letter to you to ask you if you
could help us with our plan for helping New Zealand Longfin eels.
We have found out that hydroelectric dams are stopping our eels swimming to Tonga to breed and that eels are not able to get through your hydro electric dams. Do you have a way to let eels past the dams?
If not, we would ask you if you could make a way around the dams so our eels can get to Tonga to have their babies and for the babies to come home. We know this has worked in other countries. For example, in the Columbia-Snake River Basin in the northwestern United States some methods for improving fish passages around hydropower dams involve modifications and additions to engineered structures, and the use of sensory stimuli such as light, sound, turbulence, or electric fields to influence fish distributions. Could this work in New Zealand? Do you have any other ideas that might work? We would really like to hear what you think and what your ideas are to help the longfin and shortfin eels get to Tonga to have their babies.
Milan, Xhin,and Savanna, Year 5 and 6. OLA School
It was very exciting that the students got a reply from Meridian shortly after:
Hello Milan, Xhin and Savanna
Thank you for your email.
Meridian Energy operates hydroelectric schemes in two catchments in New Zealand; the Manapouri scheme in the Waiau catchment in Southland and the Waitaki scheme the Waitaki catchment.
Dams (and other structures) in waterways do impact on the migration of eels and other freshwater fish. As you have said the adult eels need to get out to sea to have their babies, also the babies need to get back from the sea to freshwater to grow in to adults.
In both the Waitaki and Waiau catchments Meridian employs people to use traps to catch and then transfer the adult eels downstream and the baby eels upstream of the dams or structures. This approach has been found to be more effective than the use of fish ladders or passes which were initially installed at some of these structures.
If you are interested, Meridian publishes an integrated report each year to outline the Company’s financial and sustainability performance, a web-link to that report is attached. https://www.meridianenergy.co.nz/assets/Investors/Reports-and-presentations/Annual-results-and-reports/2018/95098799a5/Meridian-Energy-Integrated-Report-for-the-year-ended-30-June-2018.pdf There is information on page 41 of the report about the eel trap and transfer programme.
All the best for your continued interest in the natural world and for your learning.
Letter writing is one very important action that anybody can take to help look after our eels and the streams that they live in. It makes sure that people in charge (either in government or in corporations) know that we care about these issues, and holds them accountable to decisions that they have made. In this case, Milan, Xhin and Savanna made sure that Meridian knew that they cared about our longfin eels, and hopefully encouraged the company to keep taking positive actions!
Thank you Milan, Xhin and Savanna for undertaking this awesome action, and showing how letter writing is one way we can make positive changes in the world!