Environmental award for students studying trout
- Richie Cosgrove
Following reports that the Mimihau stream was "dead" from a fishing perspective, Year 12 students at Southland's Menzies College decided they would investigate this statement further.
The students contacted Southland Fish and Game and said they wanted to study trout and establish a monitoring program involving the tagging of trout.
Southland Fish and Game saw this as an excellent learning opportunity that would enable the students to appreciate the importance of sports fish and learn about designing a scientific study along the way.
Fish and Game staff helped the students and their teachers establish a trout monitoring program which was approved by an animal ethics committee.
The students and their teachers were instructed on how to set fyke nets to capture trout for monitoring purposes and tag those trout with floy tags.
The students were also instructed in the proper handling of sports fish.
After some trial and error, the students became proficient at setting the nets and were consistently able to catch trout to tag.
The students soon started to notice patterns in trout abundance, for example, more trout were captured in the nets in May as fish moved up into the Mimihau to prepare for spawning.
The students also caught eels, lamprey (kanakana) and perch.
All up, the students captured and tagged 35 trout and learnt a lot in the process. One of their main realisations was the idea of monitoring trout as a species which is vulnerable to reductions in water quality.
“Trout are highly valued in the local community, so rather than monitor water quality that we think reflects the health of the ecosystem for the values we care about, it’s far better to monitor the actual value, trout” said Cohen Stewart, Field Officer with Southland Fish & Game. “It’s been great being involved with the students directly and seeing their enthusiasm for the work” he added.
One of their tagged trout has since been caught by a local angler.
The students were rewarded for their hard work and recently won the Environment Southland ‘Action in Environment Education’ Award.
The student’s newfound interest in trout has prompted them to create a school fishing club and they have recently been granted $2000 to purchase fishing equipment.
Below are some comments from the students which outline their thoughts on their Mimihau Stream trout study:
I learned why trout and fish are important to us as a community.
It was a great to gain experience by doing hands on research and not just reading about how to do research in a book. I have changed my opinion on rivers and the life that lives in them.
I enjoyed gaining more knowledge about my hometown river.
The student’s teacher Dr. Kit Hustler has seen this project as a great learning opportunity for his students. "By studying the trout in the Mimihau stream, students have really gained an appreciation for their local stream and the animals that live in it" he said.
Southland Fish and Game is pleased to see the students gain appreciation for our freshwater habitats by studying the fish that live in them.
This project will continue next year with a new group of students.