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Hatchery project spawns award

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hatchery – 1

May 30, 2005

Hatchery project spawns award

The New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association (NZSAA) has honoured a man who has helped them to restore salmon stocks to the Rakaia River catchment.

Graeme Davidson has been presented with an award, The Athol Price Plaque, for Outstanding Service to the Salmon Sports Fishery at the New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association’s (NZSAA) AGM in Christchurch in mid-May.

Mr Davidson is manager of NZ King Salmon’s Tentburn Hatchery and has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry. For nearly three years he has been working with the association’s volunteers to try to halt the decline in Chinook salmon numbers in the Rakaia River.

Working mostly in conjunction with New Zealand King Salmon, Mr Davidson has been supplying returning salmon, advising on how to get an old hatchery up and running and advising on spawning, egg incubation and feeding.

The hatchery is leased to Fish and Game North Canterbury by property owners Ad and Marjo Bruijn. Ad and Marjo are enthusiastic on what has been achieved and take a very active part in the operation, NZSAA says.

The results have far exceeded expectations for a new project. Returns – fish coming back to spawn – are showing about two per cent of the number released with 40 per cent of salmon caught in 2005 originating from the first eggs hatched in 2002.

“I see this project being very important as a starting point in helping sustain the salmon fisheries in New Zealand for the salmon anglers of the future,” Mr Davidson says.

“I am delighted to receive this award. It is a privilege to help such a dedicated group of enthusiastic salmon anglers. A great deal of credit goes to all those volunteers who gave so freely of their time to be involved in the project.”

In presenting the award, association president Tim Ellis says that much of the success of the project is due to the advice, technical support and expertise of Graeme Davidson.

“Graeme has a wealth of knowledge and a great love of wild salmon. He is always willing to give his time. He has done exemplary work to help promote the salmon sports fishery.”

Mr Ellis says by supplying feed to the New Zealand Fish and Game hatchery, New Zealand King Salmon has saved a huge cost to Fish and Game which finances the operation.

“We couldn’t have done it without New Zealand King Salmon’s generosity,” he says.

The Rakaia programme began in 2002 following concern over fish numbers after the cessation of the Upper Rakaia River hatchery at Glenariffe.

“During this period and over a few past seasons, New Zealand King Salmon has been providing what sea-run return fish it gets for Fish and Game to transfer these stocks to depleted spawning streams,” Mr Davidson says. “This is still an ongoing process.

“During 2002, there was an opportunity for Fish and Game to use an old hatchery on the Rakaia river. I was called in to provide consultation on what was needed to make it operational for their needs.”

With a combination of volunteer labour from NZSAA and other fishing clubs, and New Zealand King Salmon providing feed, the only major starting cost was the purchasing of eggs. The association was shown the processes for rearing stock and a growth and feeding programme was setup.

Anglers were guided on densities, rearing conditions through to releasing and volunteers were invited to assist at Tentburn during the spawning season to give them a closer understanding of the commercial process.

“During 2005 we started getting back three year old returns and we have worked with anglers on spawning and incubation processes so they can use their returning stocks and save on buying eggs.

“The focus this season is on using hatchery-reared females and crossing with wild males. The first season has been very much a learning curve for the anglers and teaching them the correct process has resulted in good egg survival numbers.”

Riverbed incubators purchased from Canada are being used to plant surplus eyed eggs around the spawning beds and success has spawned strong optimism that hatcheries do have a place in assisting the salmon anglers in New Zealand.

Mr Davidson says: “It is hoped that if continuing good results are experienced from the hatchery, this will encourage other regions to follow.”

In many countries such hatcheries are no longer operating simply to supplement the number fish in a run – they are there to create and maintain runs. Hatchery and wild fish need to be managed carefully for both are critical to the survival of the species.

ends

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