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Mystery event kills Hawke's Bay eels

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/12/2016

Council staff in the Hawke's Bay have been left concerned and scratching their heads after discovering a swarm of dead eels washing up at a lake.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council says the discovery of the 20 dead or dying eels at Lake Tutira is a repeat of a two similar events at the start of the year, but they've yet to come up with answers about what's happening.

HBRC environmental scientist Andy Hicks says the eels had left a stink in the air and warns they are not safe to be touched or eaten.

"The dead eels are very obvious to any visitors who approach the shore with dead or dying fish observed around the boat ramp, camping grounds and northern end of the lake," he said.

On New Year's day this year, a large number of fish turned up dead at the lake - coinciding with a bloom on non-toxic algae, and a another widespread fish kill took place just a few weeks later.

Like those two events, the newest series of deaths also seems to coincide with an extreme high pH level in the water - but unlike at the start of the year, there's been no major rise in temperature.

Small native fish in the area also don't seem to be affected, although there has been reports of at least two dead trout washing up as well.

The council said the fact there had been two large fish kills in two consecutive years was unusual and concerning - although fish kills weren't uncommon in the area

Parts of the dead eels have been sent for autopsy and waters samples are being tested - but researchers say with labs closed over Christmas, they won't have any answers until early next year.

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