NIWA's National Freshwater Fish Database goes hi-tech

Next week, NIWA scientists will showcase the latest version of the National Freshwater Fish Database at an international conference in Hamilton.

NIWA scientists will next week showcase the latest version of the National Freshwater Fish Database at an international conference in Hamilton.

The New Zealand Freshwater Fish Database, a nationally significant resource which contains more than 40,000 records of freshwater fish throughout the country, has had a technological overhaul two years in the making.

Up until now records have been submitted via email by about 400 volunteers which include staff from NIWA, regional councils, Department of Conservation, Fish and Game councils and members of the public.

However, there were regularly delays of up to several months between NIWA receiving the information and having enough resources available to enter it into the database.

But now, an upgraded system means people will be able to enter information directly to the database through the internet. And after being audited by NIWA freshwater scientists, the data will be available for immediate use.

The database includes location of sample sites, fish species present, number, size and sampling methods.

NIWA's Chief scientist for Environmental Information Jochen Schmidt says this means the database will now be more relevant and of greater benefit to scientists and managers at research institutes and regional councils which use the data to set policy and manage waterways.

"It is a very valuable and comprehensive resource that is used in collaboration with many interested organisations all across New Zealand and internationally. Our upgrade means it is now more scientific, more modern and easier to use.

"In addition people can see when their data goes live without having to wait for months for us to enter it," Dr Schmidt said.

While records date back to the early 1900s, the database was officially set up in the 1970s to establish the geographic distributions of species and to assist research.

It is now also used for water management, fisheries management, the conservation of fish biodiversity and as a teaching resource.

Scientists will also be making more data available to users, such as records of invertebrate catches. The information is available free and can be found at

The database will be on show at the NIWA stand of "Aquatic Science at the Interface", a combined conference with the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society, New Zealand Marine Sciences Society and the Australian Society for Fish Biology, being held at Waikato University from Monday, 19 August.

NIWA is one of the main sponsors of the conference with its scientists presenting more than 70 of the about 150 papers.

For more about the conference see

Collecting fish samples. Credit: NIWA
NIWA data catalogue entry for the New Zealand freshwater fish database [NIWA]