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Published: 2014-10-13 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council ecologist Dr Bruno David has won a prestigious science award for innovative projects to protect native fish and control populations of invasive species.

Bruno DavidThe Kudos – Hamilton Excellence Awards were held in Hamilton last Thursday and are an annual celebration of science research and discovery from the Waikato.  

Dr David (pictured) took out the ‘New Zealand National Fieldays Innovation Award’ for a number of projects he’s been leading – from the protection and restoration of native fish habitats to developing an automated system to control invasive fish, in particular koi carp, in the lower Waikato catchment.

“It's been exciting to develop innovative ideas which are about dealing with problems and turning them into positive environmental outcomes,” Dr David said.

“Invasive fish cause major problems globally. In New Zealand, existing conditions favour the proliferation of pest species such as catfish, carp and goldfish.

“Our invasive fish ‘recycling’ centre and demonstration site at Lake Waikare incorporates the use of an invasive fish trap combined with an energy efficient bacterial digester to process large quantities of invasive fish – approximately 30 tonnes in the last 3 years,” he said.

The resultant fishmeal, also known as ‘carpacinno’, is nutrient rich and potentially certifiable as organic. Dr David has been investigating its use as a fertiliser for native plants, as well as ‘carpacinno’ baits and chew cards for controlling other invasive animals such as stoats, pigs and rats.

“The ultimate aim is a self-funded, cost neutral invasive fish removal programme at little to no cost to ratepayers with outputs supporting other environmental initiatives. The same model could be applied by other Government agencies globally where invasive fish are problematic.”

The award also recognised Dr David’s work to develop ‘kokopu condos’ and ‘tuna townhouses’ in the Mangakotukutuku Stream in Hamilton’s Sandford Park and Gibbons Creek at Parana Park. The innovative artificial structures are designed to reinstate fish habitat that has been lost from many urban streams.

Dr David said while it’s too early to say what effect the artificial habitats have had, Waikato Regional Council is monitoring who’s occupying the structures and at what times. So far, many of the structures have been occupied by a number of different fish with some individuals occupying them for extended periods.

In accepting the award, Dr David acknowledged the support of a number of colleagues, many of whom attended the event – Callum Bourke, Mark Hamer, Stephen Scothern, Dave Byers and Kevin Collier. 

“Coming up with the idea is easy but implementing it isn’t quite so easy and couldn’t be done without the help of a team of people,” Dr David said.

The event is run by the Hamilton Science Awards Trust to recognise some of the 1000 PhD scientists working out of the region.