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Canadian Trout Import Plan Threat To Fisheries

10/2/01

Canadian Trout Import Plan Threat To World Famous Fisheries

New Zealand should not allow imports of Canadian farmed trout to appease Canadian trade demands says a Waikato scientist, Dr Ian Johnstone. Dr Johnstone, in an independent report on the non-commercial status of trout commissioned by the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers, warned that New Zealand's famous sporting trout fishery was a valuable resource with "cultural, environmental and economic dimensions". Removing the current ban on the sale of trout would pose serious medium and long term threats to the public resource.

Agriculture and Trade Minister Jim Sutton had suggested New Zealand must remove the ban on selling trout so Canada could import farmed trout into New Zealand. Prior to the last election Taupo Labour MP Mark Burton had put forward a private member's bill strengthening the ban on selling trout because of the National government intentions to allow trout imports and inevitably trout farming. The Labour/Alliance government on being elected backed the Burton bill, but in recent weeks cabinet minister Jim Sutton had indicated the government would give in to Canadian demands for trout imports. A MAF report had backed the Canadian demands.

However Dr Johnstone said such a move would threaten the country's wild trout fisheries, a major public outdoor sport and tourist attraction to many overseas anglers. "Previous legislation which banned the sale of trout, imported or domestic, for human consumption and thereby prevented trout farming, has protected this resource. Such protection to date has successfully limited the introduction of exotic trout diseases, maintained a recreational resource prized by New Zealanders and tourists alike, and helped support New Zealand's clean green image".

New Zealand was relatively free of diseases that affect trout and which were a continual problem in overseas trout farming countries. Several trout diseases not present in New Zealand had the potential to devastate the recreational fishery. In the USA, whirling disease introduced to the States in frozen trout and which subsequently became a major problem in trout farms, had in recent years spread to wild populations in rivers, causing heavy mortality amongst rainbow trout populations.

Dr Johnstone, who is also a bio-security manager and advisor and had researched pest invasions, said the effectiveness of New Zealand's border controls to avoid disease introduction was "somewhat uncertain". In addition, disease was sometimes deliberately introduced as economic sabotage, or in a case such as the rabbit haemorrhagic disease. There was strong suspicion that the varroa bee mite was a case of deliberate introduction. If New Zealand commercialised trout by allowing its sale and introduced trout farming, the deliberate introduction of a trout disease was virtually unavoidable.

Dr Johnstone said if trout were saleable, poaching would become rife with poaching being a low-cost business while financial returns from black market sources would not involve GST or income tax. "Poachers could easily and quickly reduce the fishery to a non-sustainable state" he said. Dr Johnstone rejected the argument that the ban on selling trout and consequently trout imports was not in line with a free trade policy. "Many resources are subject to no trade, ranging from scoria making up Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf, to fur seals" he said.

Dr Johnstone said the continued disease-free and non-saleable status of New Zealand trout had been a great success with a large number of trout fishing licences sold each year to both New Zealanders and tourists. "Wild trout have both cultural and economic significance to New Zealand" he said. Estimates have put the economic value of New Zealand's sporting trout fishery at about $800 million per annum.

Commenting on Dr Johnstone's report Ken Sims, Research Officer for the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers said the independent risk assessment showed that the government should strongly resist the "Canadian bullying tactics" in the public interest. "The government is duty bound to protect the public interest rather than cave in for ideological reasons or under strong arm tactics by other countries who, in any case, heavily subsidise farming and therefore do not practice free trade" he said.

Ends.

For more information: http://go.to.NZFFA

Ken Sims E-Mail: kiwiken@bigfoot.com Phone (06) 356 9402, Fax: (06) 356 9404 63 Maxwells Line, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Ken Sims - Web site: http://www.geocities.com/ken_sims_98/nzffa/ Research Officer, New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers, Inc Executive member, Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ)


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