‘Devastating’: Thousands of tuna perish

Feb 27, 2024

Several thousand tuna (eels) have been found dead in Low Burn Stream, an offshoot of the Mataura River, near Brydone south of Gore. 

Hokonui Rūnaka Kaiārihi Taiao Riki Parata is saddened by the event.

“It’s quite emotional for us,” he says.

VIDEO: Perished tuna 

Volunteers had the unenviable task of cleaning up the dead tuna from the stream.

He explains some of the volunteers cleaning up are from the Hokonui Rūnaka Wai Māori team, which monitors tuna for research and has been trapping and transferring juveniles from the Mataura Falls in the Mataura River Mātaitai, which was set up to protect taonga species including tuna.

“It’s devastating. We work daily with the tuna in this area, so to see this is very confronting. It’s a hell of a lot of tuna in a very small stream.”

Riki Parata says his group found 400 dead tuna in a 500-metre stretch of the stream.

He wants to thank the volunteers from Te Ao Mārama and Environment Southland kaimahi for their continuous updates and huge effort in the field.

He is unsure what killed the tuna. Environment Southland is investigating the cause of the deaths.

“This is a tragic event. I want to appeal to people to treat our waterways with more respect. They’re not drains. We need to look after our awa. It’s precious.”

Tuna are an important taonga species for Ngāi Tahu and Hokonui Rūnaka. They are essential to the continuation of mahika kai for our iwi.

Tuna are an ecological health indicator to assess water and habitat quality. There are countless stories, artefacts, and waiata dedicated to tuna, which reinforces their importance to our Ngāi Tahu.

Hokonui whānau member Luka Finn with dead tuna