A rare fish named after a J.R.R. Tolkien character is at risk of extinction if a dam is built on the species's one-and-only river habitat in New Zealand, a government report concluded last week.
The 15-centimeter fish, Gollum galaxias (full Latin name, Galaxias gollumoides, also known as the "Smeagol galaxiid"), can only be found on New Zealand's Stewart Island. A local energy company, Pioneer Generation, Ltd., wants to build a man-made lake and a 45-megawatt hydroelectric dam on the Nevis River, the fish's habitat. The company is now considering an appeal of last week's government decision that prohibits dams on the river.
The decision, made by a special tribunal set up to discuss the fish's fate, "is very clear that damming the Nevis River would put Gollum at risk of permanent extinction," New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told Scoop Independent News.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) had previously ranked the fish as "nationally vulnerable." The DOC had nothing to do with the decision to block the dam. That ruling followed a request by a different agency, Fish and Game New Zealand, in support of fishermen who sought to preserve the character of Nevis River. In a session of New Zealand's House of Representatives on October 26, Member of Parliament Kate Wilkinson said the DOC has not yet made a decision on what role it would take in the appeal process.
Gollum galaxias was discovered in 1999 during the first major study of Stewart Island's freshwater fauna. It was named after the Tolkien character in honor of its bulging eyes and semitransparent skin. The Lord of the Rings trilogy movies were in preproduction at the time the species was discovered.
Photo via The Encyclopedia of New Zealand