Local Waiheke man the first to witness giant kokopu spawning

Last Updated : 13 Jul 2016
Giant Kokopu spawning 1
Giant Kokopu spawning 2
Giant Kokopu spawning 3

A local pig hunter on Waiheke Island got the surprise of his life last month when he came across one of New Zealand’s most endangered native fish, the giant kokopu, spawning.

The local man heard “plenty of commotion in the wetland” but rather than encountering pigs, he chanced upon “two large and strangely patterned fish with their backs out of the water, pushing into the vegetation”.

“It’s an incredibly rare event to have witnessed” says Matthew Bloxham, Senior Regional Advisor from Auckland Council Biodiversity. “There is no record of anyone having witnessed giant kokopu spawning in the wild before.”

“To have a witness to the giant kokopu spawning is extraordinary. Finding the eggs was just the icing on the cake because that means we have an exact location that we can protect to help build the giant kokopu population from,” says Bloxham.

“Key to this will be protecting the eggs from predators such as pigs, mice and rats and reducing sediment discharges into the stream. Fortunately there are landowners higher up in the catchment area who are already carrying out substantial, ongoing predator-control works, so we’re off to a good start.”

Giant kokopu, one of five species of whitebait found in the region, is one of the rarest with only a handful of populations remaining.

Every effort is being made to protect this Waiheke spawning ground with help from landowners, Auckland Council’s Biosecurity team, and the Local and Sports Parks Team.

A buffer over the spawning zone is being proposed, which will allow for predator control operations to protect the giant kokopu spawning area.

Questions and Answers with Matthew Bloxham, Senior Regional Advisor (Freshwater) from Auckland Council Biodiversity Team

How would a member of the public recognise a giant kokopu and what should they do if they believe they have seen one?

Giant kokopu are conspicuous for their size, hence their name. Some of the largest specimens recorded were 58cm long and weighed 2.7kg, but few if any of that size are seen nowadays. The largest fish are also likely to be upwards of two decades old.

Why is this find of national significance?

Giant kokopu eggs were only found for the first time in 2012 and this is the first recorded spawning observation in the wild.

Wasn’t there was another fish found out at Piha recently?

There was a lone giant kokopu found in a Piha stream in April this year, so finding two and their spawning site is very exciting.

Where on Waiheke was the spawning site found?

Awaawaroa Wetland, its one of Waiheke's best-kept secrets, quite lovely and worth a visit.

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