…a predator control operation … could have contributed to the problem. Department of Concervation (DoC)
Carnage on Westport’s North Beach
By Carol Sawyer
The photo below shows a trailer load of dead creatures collected from the Westport beach by volunteers on Saturday.
A notice appeared online yesterday :”On Behalf of DoC from the Buller District Council There was a predator control operation in the Springs Junction area last weekend and this could have contributed to the problem (of the rats on the beach) Samples are being sent away for testing.”
The dead creatures included a goat, a crayfish, monkfish, octopuses, barracuda, starfish, skates, sole, crabs, and seabirds, as well as over 600 rats. There were also large numbers of Tuatua, still with meat in them, which is unusual. The dead marine life were all bottom-feeders.
Trevor Reid, who knows the Coast well, says that although dead sea life washes up on the beach after a storm, the sheer numbers are very unusual.
Sampling and disposal
I hope someone with no conflict of interest took samples as well as DoC! DoC have apparently taken the crayfish for testing, but this is the least likely to have died from 1080 poison as it was undersize and could have been tossed off a fishing boat.
However although no signage went up for 24 hours, two DoC rangers turned up yesterday afternoon to help the volunteers and used a digger to make a hole in the beach to put all the dead rats in – not a very deep hole I have been told.
Trevor Reid, who took most of these photos, said he stopped a young guy from fishing. When he arrived at the beach there were freedom campers everywhere and a two-year-old was playing near some of the dead rats. As there were no signs he explained what had happened to the tourists, who were horrified.
One of the anti-1080 group has sent off an OIA request. DoC will undoubtedly try to downplay this. The trailer photo is the most hard-hitting. Meanwhile Stuff printed a completely innocuous photo of seagulls standing on the beach with not a dead rodent in sight!
(Postscript – The incident featured on TV3’s Sunday 10 November “Newshub” and a Doc representative said that the bodies were probably washed down from the hills. But he conceded that there had been a recent 1080 drop in the area. Sample testing would reveal the cause of the deaths. Locals interviewed said they had never seen anything on this scale before.)