As the famed Tongariro winter spawning runs attract many more ‘outsiders’ aka tourists from other parts of NZ such as South Island (where most of the fishing is closed off for winter) and West Island, TRM increasingly receives a battering over issues such as the decision by DOC to use the Trout Centre hatchery to breed mature trout for local Maori.
What we heard
What we heard in relation to management interventions was a number of ideas about actions that the Department should be taking to improve the Fishery – ranging from more concerted stocking of the lake, removal of catfish, changes to bag and size limits and the like.
What we concluded
On the specifics, we found little evidence that actively stocking Lake Taupō will be effective generally, but especially when the issue is more likely to be reduced food (ironically, there are potentially too many fish in the system at present).
In relation to catfish, while the Department’s science currently indicates that they have little or no impact on trout, anglers generally do not accept this viewpoint. Putting aside the communication issues that undoubtedly contribute to this divergence of views, we believe there should be an acceptance that catfish could be considered to be a conservation (rather than fishery) issue. They clearly have a negative impact on the native kōura populations, which are an important taonga species for Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and they are not a major food
source for trout. Catfish also potentially have a negative impact on the wider lake ecosystem as well as on people’s perceptions. There is an opportunity to take some proactive steps to reduce the population, and potentially even enable some form of commercial harvest (regulated under the Fisheries Act).
What we heard
Centre (which is discussed further in Section 1.1.2) were questions about its role, and (as noted above) in particular whether it should be used more actively to stock the lake with fish. We found that the hatchery’s purpose is generally narrower than this, and anyway, a long-term strategy of actively stocking the lake is unlikely to be effective.
As an example, in the 1960s, upwards of 100,000 fish were released into the lake, but made no discernible difference to fish numbers.
While the option should not be permanently discounted, there is little evidence
at present that active stocking would be an effective intervention.
Four key roles for the hatchery were identified in the course of the review.
The first is as an insurance policy should a catastrophic event hit the Fishery,
secondly it is a useful backup to the Eastern Fish and Game Hatchery,
thirdly it fulfils a research role, and
lastly it stocks the childrens’ fishing pool.
The hatchery facility is also poised to be used as a whio ‘hardening’ facility in the near future.
What we conclude
As a fish management tool the hatchery appears currently to have only limited value. The roles that were identified are useful but not particularly significant in the overall management scheme, and there would be the ability simply to ‘turn off’ the facility and bring it back on stream should the need arise in the future.
However, counter to that, is that the resources currently spent on the hatchery are not large. And, as part of the wider advocacy and education around the Taupō Fishery and freshwater environments generally, the Tongariro National Trout Centre is an emerging jewel which has significant potential for freshwater advocacy and increasing participation rates in the Fishery. It may be that a functioning hatchery should continue to form part of that wider story. Because a commitment has already been made by the Department to examine options for the optimal use of the whole site, our view is that any decisions on the future of the hatchery function should be parked for now.
OK? So anglers have asked where in all that did it suggest the change in policy so that trout are to be reared to maturity to be given to local Maori?
This is just another tiny example of how a major 175 page Government review – that anglers paid for through their licences – has been ignored. Why bother with a review at all?
TRM and other readers would be interested in your comments and responses.