Rare Fish finds in the Pareraho Forest

December 1, 2023

It gets a bad rap, a creature from your nightmares, with its sawblade of vampire like teeth and gaping suction mouth, but this is a very precious, rare, threatened creature, and a super exciting find for our friends from Pareraho Forest Trust. E hoa mā, I introduce you.. to the piharau!

Piharau (Lamprey)

We’re out in the taiao with members from Pareraho Forest Trust as they look to investigate the life and health of their streams. This conservation group is dedicated to enhancing and protecting the diverse life within this area. Pareraho Forest is a native ngāhere with so much to explore. With two streams weaving through the catchment before joining Te Awa Kairangi there is bound to be some pretty special species hidden in there.

Belmont Stream in Pareraho Forest

We’ve been treated to a rare sight! A Piharau, embarking on a treacherous climb up a sloping concrete ramp to reach upstream habitat. Piharau, also known as lamprey, kanakana or korokoro, are migratory fish, like our native tuna (eels). They move between salt and freshwater throughout their life cycle. But unlike tuna, they spend most of their life at sea, venturing into freshwater only for spawning and then as juveniles for the first year or so of their life. These fish are ancient,  kicking it with the dinosaurs 360 million years ago, and you can see evidence of this with their lack of jaw bones.

Because of the eel-like shape we thought we had spotted a tuna, but watching closely we could see the Piharau was using its strong sucking mouth to climb the ramp. This was so awesome to see as these creatures are usually pretty secretive and tend to hide away during the day. This was an exciting first discovery for the group and they were keen to find out what other life was slithering within their streams.

Piharau are a taonga species to māori, being a prized fat rich food source. But many communities across Aotearoa are reporting that both their abundance and size are declining. They are under threat from pollution, loss of good habitat, and barriers like culverts and dams that stop them from migrating to spawning sites. This makes their discovery in Pareraho Forest even more important.

To care for these and many more creatures, the Pareraho Forest Trust are working with us to monitor the streams. We are stoked to be helping them keep an eye on any changes that happening and measure how effective their continued restoration efforts will be in years to come.

Catchment Restoration and Science Coordinator - Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Te Awa Kairangi & Te Awarua-o-Porirua
Abbey joins us after recently completing her studies at the University of Waikato, as a catchment coordinator she is able to combine her passion for community-driven change and her love for te taiao. Abbey is excited about swapping out her lab coat for gumboots and getting into the awa.
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