by David Haynes – President NZFFA (NEW ZEALAND FEDERATION OF FRESHWATER ANGLERS (Inc.)
When seemingly unrelated events come together and resonate to produce something bad, that could be a reasonable definition of “a perfect storm”.
Right now there are three such events on the horizon that could adversely impact on our world- class wild trout fishery:
- The proposal by Ngati Tuwharetoa to farm trout for cultural purposes at the Tongariro National Trout Hatchery.There are probably only a handful of anglers unaware of the ‘Agreement in Principle’ (AIP) between Ngati Tuwharetoa and the Office of Treaty Settlements whereby the latter will be given the Tongariro National Trout Centre including currently unused raceways in which they wish to establish a trout-rearing facility. When this first surfaced in June this year, considerable disquiet rippled throughout the angling community. Since then letters to the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) from Graham Whyman, chairman of the Tongariro Fishery Advisory Committee, and Bryce Johnson, CEO of NZ Fish & Game, seeking clarification of the AIP have not been answered and OTS and DoC seem to have gone into hiding to avoid the issue. Nevertheless, the issue has not gone away.
- The expiry of the Customs Import Prohibition (Trout) Order 2010 (as amended November 2012).This Order prohibits the import of any trout product, whether excrement, semen, egg or flesh, unless special dispensation is granted by the Minister of Conservation. Originally established in 1998 to plug a loophole in the Conservation Act which would have allowed sale of trout, the prohibition order has been renewed triennially since then. The current Order is due to expire 7 November 2015.
- The Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s economic development strategy.The recent release of their economic development strategy by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which builds on the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) 2015-2015 aquaculture strategy, explicitly identifies commercial trout farming as an economic activity it wishes to promote. Fish & Game was not consulted by BoP Regional Council prior to release of the council’s strategy and it is understandably upset by that failure.
Many anglers are concerned that the Tuwharetoa AIP is the thin end of the wedge of national commercial trout farming. If the prohibition on the importation of trout product was to lapse and allow fish farmers in Canada, say, to send over farmed trout would it not be reasonable for NZ based fish farmers to say “if they can sell it over here, why can’t we?”.
Whilst both Section 26ZI of the Conservation Act 1987 and Section 301 of the Fisheries Act 1996 would need to be changed to enable trout to be raised for the table, this could happen under a determined Government with a bit of shuffling of its Parliamentary legislative timetable.
Then to cap it all, other Councils and aquaculture enterprises may see the BoP Regional Council intention as a green light to farm trout, despite it being more likely that they have fallen prey to a mediocre management consultancy which failed to check facts when extolling the benefits of trout farming to glib Council managers.
The threats to the sustainability of our world-class and globally rare wild trout fishery are five-fold:
- The introduction or spread of disease by farmed fish may irreversibly devastate wild trout populations.
- Creating a market for trout will increase poaching and reducing legitimate angler opportunities.
- Escaped fish pose a serious threat to the genetic health of wild trout.
- Water pollution from trout farm effluent has significant effects that persist for up to 12 kmdownstream.
- Antibiotics and chemical treatments used to keep overcrowded fish alive in trout farmsmay impact human health and make wild fish less valued by anglers due to contamination.
Having been raised as an angler in the UK where the majority of fishing is in man-made ponds, stocked with intensively-reared and flabby fish with deformed fins, ragged, bitten tails, scarred and pock-marked skins wrapped around pallid flesh that tastes like mud, it is a no-brainer for New Zealand anglers to fight and prevent even the tiniest of risks to the continued health of our wild trout fisheries.
On behalf of the NZFFA executive, I wish you all a wonderful season of freshwater angling in clear, clean waterways.
PS The potential for the perfect storm has got even worse recently as a new Carp Farm has since been proposed at Taupo. I feel sick…