Freshwater ecologist Dr Ian Kusabs explains the ecological roles kōura play and their importance to iwi living in the central North Island.
- What three things do kōura do for the local ecosystem?
- Why are kōura culturally important?
Kōura are really important in freshwater ecosystems. They’re an organism that has an extremely high impact on an ecosystem relative to its population. That’s why we call them a keystone species. They’re omnivores so they eat plant and animal matter and the rotting matter on the bed of the lake or the repo. They also remove a lot of sediment and silt from rocks, so they maintain the crevices and cracks for lots of other insects and animals to live in. They’re a food for other fish species and shags and people.
Kōura are considered by Māori to be a taonga species, so a treasured species, and particularly in the central North Island, so the Rotorua and Taupō lakes, where historically they were important, in huge quantities and not only used for consumption but also for trading with iwi from outlying districts. They are one of the main food staples around these lakes, and that’s carried on to today where now they’re considered a delicacy.
In Te Arawa when we had our Treaty settlement, we supplied kōura for those tables at Tama-te-Kapua. It’s really prestigious to have those on the table – it’s a highly valued local resource.
Footage, kōura on lake bottom, whakaweku and men hauling in whakaweku; and photos of cooked kōura, Dr Ian Kusabs
Photo, kōura on rocks, aeterno, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Photo of little shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) eating kōura, Raewyn Adams
Historical footage, women on waka and harvesting kōura with a whakaweku, 1937, The Footage Company Australia/British Movietone