27 Mar 2012

Efforts to protect eel population in Northland

7:17 am on 27 March 2012

Northland hapu working to protect the region's dwindling eel population are hoping to save hundreds by netting them at a Whangarei hydro station.

The tuna whaka heke - or big breeding eels, make their once-in-a-lifetime hikoi to the ocean every autumn.

But hapu say hundreds die every year, when they rush down the canal of Northpower's Wairua power station, and plunge over a 30-metre slipway onto the rocks below.

George Hikuwai - who has spent the summer transferring tiny elvers upstream - says the next job is to catch the big parent eels at the power station and transfer them to safety downstream.

Mr Hikuwai says some of the tuna whaka heke will have come down the Wairua in last week's big flood - but with increased flows, it is likely they made it safely via their traditional route - down the Omiru Falls.