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Trout history being unearthed

Hatchery Site Plan
circa 1880
Click for big version.

Hatchery Site Plan circa 1880

Trout history being unearthed

A team of volunteers will spend International Archaeology Day uncovering a significant part of Otago’s history – the original hatchery ponds that raised the ancestors of today’s thriving brown trout fisheries.

On Saturday 19 October, volunteers from Fish & Game and Mountain Bike Otago and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) will excavate the original Otago Acclimatization Society fish hatchery ponds in Opoho Creek, Dunedin. It was from these ponds that the ancestors of today’s thriving brown trout fisheries originated.

The two rock lined ponds, built by the Otago Acclimatisation society in 1868, were rediscovered by members of the Mountain Bike Club in January 2011 when installing the new mountain bike track up the Opoho Creek valley. The site has since been investigated by the NZHPT Regional Archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt and on Sunday the ponds will be further uncovered as part of a joint project between Fish & Game, NZHPT and the Otago Mountain Bike Club.

Otago Fish & Game Council, the organisation which replaced the Acclimatisation Society, is excited by the sites discovery and protection. Chief Executive Niall Watson said that revealing and future management of the ponds was important and provided the public with an opportunity to reflect on our colonial past. He said it was nearly 150 years since the Otago Acclimatisation Society first formed with the express purpose of obtaining and liberating an array of familiar species from Europe for food and sport.

“I’d have to say that brown trout were one of the more successful introductions. When you look at this site, consider the materials they had to work with and logistics of transferring live trout eggs from Tasmania, it’s a marvel that they achieved what they did here. That tenacity is what makes this such a special site.” Mr Watson said

NZHPT archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt has identified the ponds as being nationally significant as they represent an important historic event for the 19th century Acclimatisation Societies. He commended the Mountain Bike Otago for communicating their find to him when the site was found.

“These ponds could have been left as they were but would gradually have become damaged or destroyed through natural processes, such as vegetation encroachment, or future works through the bush. An important part of Otago’s heritage could have been lost forever. Instead, the site will be protected by some railing, have an interpretation panel installed and given the recognition that it deserves.” Dr Schmidt said.

The management of the ponds and installation of an interpretation panel is hoped to be completed in time for the Otago Acclimatisation Society 150 year anniversary celebrations in 2014.

Ends

Background information.

International Archeological Day is an iniative of the Archaelogical Institute of America. For more information visitwww.archaeological.org/archaeologyday andwww.archaeological.org/events/13657

Acclimatisation Societies were replaced by Fish & Game Councils in 1990 as part of Government’s conservation law reforms.

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