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Iwi joins clean-up of mass tuna deaths in Southland

Paridhi BakshiHalle / Taite-Pitama, Tahu News

Iwi volunteers launch major clean-up of eels found dead in mass on Southland shores.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Iwi volunteers have launched a large-scale clean-up of thousands of eels found dead in a stream near Mataura in Southland.

Riki Parata, Environmental Lead for Hokonui Rūnaka, says their team was supporting the clean-up and is working with other environmentalists to understand the abnormal event.

“It’s a mass tuna die-off. Very devastating, not only for us but also for the wider community as well,” he says.

“Ideally, we like to bury them, and would like to do it in a way we dispose of them back to Papatūānuku. But it is still treated as bio risk. We also have to be careful of other contamination on land.”

An investigation was launched last week after several thousand tuna were found dead across 10km of the Low Burn Stream. They were found floating or washed up on banks.

Parata said the cause of the mass deaths was still inconclusive but could be linked to contamination. He says other species like kōura and trout were also included, with some remains collected for research and investigation.

“Some have been taken for biopsy and tissue sampling for investigation. The remaining, it looks like has been washed down by the stream and the larger tuna have been caught in the banks.”

He praised iwi volunteers of Te Ao Mārama and Environment Southland for their support and swift action.

Hero image: Several thousands of tuna were found dead at the Low Burn Stream near Gore. Photo / Supplied

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