Capturing tuna

Himiora Nuku. Photo: Susan Murray

When Himiora Nuku was growing up in Murupara in the 1980s "you could leave the car running, with the keys in it, shoot into the shop, do your thing and it would still be there when you came back."

It's memories of those days and the great lessons learnt from hunting, fishing and being around kaumatua that called Himiora back from Australia to his hometown to set up a tourism business with his brother and sister-in-law.

At the time there were plenty of doubters, but a decade later it's still going, and just while tourism is a little quieter they're using their wilderness skills to help local tamariki with some life lessons.

Another business Himiora is now part of is the capture and release of tuna.

For decades, eels haven't been able to follow their natural behaviour and swim down the Rangitaiki River to the sea and on to warmer waters for spawning because the Aniwhenua and Matahina hydropower stations are blocking their journey.

For Himiona and his brother, "alarms bells started ringing" about the problem when they realised they were catching fewer and fewer tuna for their whānau.

The pair decided something needed to be done, and for the past five years they've been setting nets, catching adult eels and then releasing them near the sea.

"Our iwi, we're known for tuna - their numbers, the taste and size - but over the past years the migration journey was blocked by powerstations ... Since then the eels have not been able to migrate to finish their cycle. Like salmon, they go to sea to spawn and die and babies come back.  

"It was a job nobody was doing but it had to be done ..  we didn't wait around for approval," he laughs.

Luckily for Himiona and his brother, their project is now fully funded.

"Us and the eels couldn't be happier."

While it's a bit early to tell if there are any real changes as a result of their work, Himiora says he's noticed are more juvenile eels, especially young ones, coming back.

"That's the work all the families down the river are doing. Hopefully these eels won't go extinct, that's the main reason we're doing things.

"What we want is to see the next generation have the same fisheries and stock in the rivers as we had when we were kids. Maybe we're not doing it for us, we're doing it for them," he muses.

RNZ




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