Duncan’s Canvas

Project name: Save the Eels

What did the client request?

Just before lockdown a lake was designated an eel reserve because eel numbers are falling. The government put $4.5 million into a plan to save the eels, and this involved sophisticated pumps being installed at the lake inlet which would not hurt any eels which managed to get in. Our task was to build a wooden structure to sit inside the concrete bunker at the inlet. The wooden structure had to be covered in fine netting, and a large sock of netting had to extend from the frame. This is to capture any fish that pass through, and a passive integrated transponder (PIT) system is in place at the site to assess the behaviour of the tagged eels at the pump. All fish captured in the sock net will be measured and checked for any injuries.

What makes this project unique?

To be involved in helping save the eels was an opportunity to fill a cultural and environmental need like never before. It is believed this system will have significant benefits for eel populations in pumped catchments throughout New Zealand. Eels became an important food source for Māori, but it was a relationship that extended beyond nourishment to respect, and even reverence. Over time they were even thought of as protectors or guardians. Ecologically eels are very important. They are a top-order predator in freshwater streams, which help regulate the population of other animals. They themselves are a significant source of food for fish.