Footprints and longfins

Posted on September 9, 2008


Last night we went to a talk by Metiria Turei about the dramatic collapse in New Zealand’s endemic eel population,  the longfin in particular.    Metiria showed an outstanding film by students from the   Science and Natural History filmmaking programme of the the Centre for Science Communication.    Lindsay Davidson and Melissa Salpietra’s Longfin (mp4 24mins) is a stunning piece of work.   

For me the the movie brought together several threads:

Timescale of impacts.   The eels average breeding cycle is 45 years.  Commercial fishing started 43 years ago.  A commercial eel fisher on the movie lamented the lack of large eels but denied overfishing as he was still able to take the same tonnage (of increasingly small eels).  The value of bioindicators such as these eels cannot be overstated. 

The potential for projects such as our SimPa.  Longfin featured the late Kelly Davis Te Maire.  Kelly talked about the importance of eels as a food of cultural significance.   Metiria talked about threats to eels, after overfishing comes habitat destruction and waterway pollution.   Kelly was a key partner in the SimPa project, seeing potential for using it to rebuild visions of habitats as communities work toward restoration.  The loss of Kelly has slowed us in this regard, but one of the emerging GamePa is supporting a wetland restoration.  Yesterday Khlya and I had a good talk about further opportunities. 

The students who made the film were clearly operating on a basis of integrity of information.  They didn’t criticise the eel fishers, they let them tell their own story.  Similarly, the people involved in trap and transfer were shown to be people with a burning passion to help, perhaps in stark contrast to those who see this as greenwash by power companies. 

I was also left with a feeling of a discipline that has got itself sorted in terms of sustainable practitioner.   While I’m sure science communicators struggle with their own footprint (carbon miles, animal welfare etc), they have comfortably accepted a responsibility for influencing bigger impacts (doing more, not just less as Brangart would say, or Senge’s regenerative sustainability).

Thank you Metiria for a thoughtful evening, and yes, I’ll write a letter about the dam.