Monday, August 17, 2015

New Zealand's freshwater wildlife facing mass extinction

Almost three quarters of New Zealand's native fresh water species are facing extinction, and government plans to step up farming will worsen the problem, ecologists warned Monday.

A report from the Society for Conservation Biology said 74 percent of native freshwater fish, mussel and crayfish species were now listed as threatened with extinction.

It cited excessive nutrient run-off from over-intensive agriculture, extraction of water, river engineering, and human and industrial waste discharged to waterways as the causes of widespread pollution of New Zealand's freshwater waterways.

This, combined with commercial exploitation and exportation of many threatened and endemic species, meant freshwater species numbers were fast dwindling.

Report contributor and ecologist Mike Joy, of Massey University, said New Zealanders considered water pollution and declining water quality as the most important environmental issue, but the government continued to largely ignore the problem.

"The government's plans to drastically increase agricultural production will exacerbate all the problems. There are even plans to increase development of our rivers and wetlands, exacerbating these problems," Joy said in a statement.

"It's a false economy. We can improve our practices, mitigate obvious threats and adequately regulate the developments that are causing these problems and still have a strong economy."

The report suggested six "clear priorities" to protect freshwater biodiversity, including legislation to adequately protect native and endemic fish species and invertebrates, as well as the habitat critical to the survival of freshwater species. 

  Xinhua -

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