The New Zealand freshwater fish threat classification panel led by the Department of Conservation has made changes to the classification of freshwater fish, giving several species a higher conservation status.
"We have improved knowledge of some species which means we could more accurately assess their conservation status," said DOC's Freshwater Technical Advisor, Jane Goodman.
In total five freshwater fish species have moved from a 'non-threatened' status to a higher threat status. Thirty-nine percent of native species are listed as 'threatened' with 5 species from Canterbury and Otago classified in the highest threat category – 'nationally critical'.
"There are many reasons for the change in threat status and the decline of fish species - habitat loss, pressure from introduced fish, poor water quality and barriers to migratory fish being just a few," she said.
One whitebait species, the shortjaw kokopu, has a higher threat ranking this time has moved into 'nationally vulnerable.' There has been no change to the status of longfin eel but the expert panel is concerned about pressures on the population.
"We will continue to work with partners, including local councils and the community to look at protecting habitat, improving water quality and fishing passage where possible," said Goodman.
The Department has a freshwater fish team based in Otago that have been focused on increasing our understanding of our most threatened freshwater fish.
DOC has been building relationships with communities and landowners and will work together with them to try to halt the decline of freshwater fish in New Zealand.
DOC has also undertaken a review of the three freshwater fish recovery plans and groups to assess where there have been improvements in knowledge, where there are still gaps and how we can improve freshwater fish conservation.
Recreational and commercial fishing will not be affected by the changes neither will it affect legislation.