AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Kōura (Paranephrops planifrons) populations in the Te Arawa lakes: An ecological assessment using the traditional Māori tau kōura harvesting method and recommendations for sustainable management

by Ian Andrew Kusabs

Institution: University of Waikato
Year: 2015
Keywords: Kōura; Freshwater crayfish; sustainable management; traditional maori harvesting method; tau koura
Record ID: 1309823
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/9346


Freshwater crayfish are amongst the most influential of biota in many aquatic systems. They have various ecological functions, acting as shredders, detritivores and predators which in turn influence other macroinvertebrate fauna. Furthermore, freshwater crayfish are increasingly used as indicator species because of the important role they play in aquatic ecosystems and their iconic and heritage values. Kōura or freshwater crayfish (Paranephrops planifrons White) are endemic to New Zealand where they are an important component of freshwater ecosystems and a source of food for freshwater fish and humans. This study was undertaken to gain a better understanding of kōura populations in the Te Arawa lakes by quantifying relative kōura abundance and distribution and assessing the effects of environmental factors on kōura populations. In addition, basic biological information on sex ratios, breeding and moulting was collected as a basis for setting regulations and management policies for the sustainable management of kōura in the Te Arawa lakes. Historically, kōura were an important food for the indigenous Māori people, particularly in the central North Island (CNI) lakes where large numbers were harvested for consumption and trading. Today, kōura are considered a ‘taonga’ species and support important customary fisheries in some CNI lakes (Rotomā, Rotoiti, Tarawera, and Taupō) where large populations of kōura still exist. Nevertheless, there is considerable anecdotal evidence of declines in populations of kōura in the Te Arawa lakes district since European settlement. A number of environmental factors have been implicated in this decline, including introductions of exotic fish and plant species as well as reduced concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the bottom waters of lakes due to eutrophication. Although the ecology of stream-dwelling P. planifrons is well studied in New Zealand, there is limited published biological information on kōura in lakes. The lack of quantitative information on kōura abundance and ecology makes it difficult for iwi (Māori tribes) and government agencies to manage lake dwelling kōura populations. Until recently the main reason for the lack of quantitative information on lake kōura was the absence of suitable representative sampling methods. In a preliminary study of kōura sampling methods in the Te Arawa lakes, it was found that conventional sampling methods, baited traps, SCUBA and underwater video camera surveys had a number of disadvantages. Trapping was found to be highly biased towards large individuals and complicated by reductions in bait quality with time and changes in natural food abundance. SCUBA and underwater video camera surveys are also biased towards large individuals and are strongly dependent on underwater visibility. Given the disadvantages of these conventional kōura assessment methods, a traditional Māori harvesting method, the tau kōura, was adapted for the monitoring of lake kōura populations. The tau kōura captured large numbers and a wide size range (6 – 50 mm Orbit…