Trout Farming Rears its Ugly Head
The spectre of trout farming has reared up from the murky shadows of the previous National government’s treaty deals. Māori owners of Lake Rotoaira near Turangi are reported to be backing an attempt to allow trout farming.
Retiring president of the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers Graham Carter said at the organisation’s annual meeting in Wellington in mid-May, that while it was not unexpected it was absolute folly.
“It is not a great idea to put at risk and potentially wreck New Zealand’s annual one billion dollar ($1,000,000,000) recreational and tourism trout fishing industry,” he said.
Referring to it being not unexpected, he added, “Well that was predictable given the terms of National’s treaty minister Chris Finlayson's parting treaty deal with Tuwharetoa. When he effectively designated introduced trout as customary Taonga, and gifted tu Wharetoa use of the Taupo trout hatchery, we said at the time that trout farming was the hidden agenda.”
In addition, Parliament’s primary production committee was currently considering a petition from salmon farming pioneer Clive Barker for restrictions on the farming and sale of trout to be lifted. Mr Barker began a salmon farming based on “ocean ranching” in Golden Bay but it failed.
That petition has been vigorously opposed by the Federation of Freshwater Anglers, who have put a submission to the Select Committee outlining the effects and damage disease from trout farming has caused in other countries, the poor quality of the farmed trout, black market development once trout are commercialised , poor economics with trout farming, use of public water, organic polluted effluent and many other environmental risks.
Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust Tūwharetoa owners were looking closely at the debate, arguing their lake could be suitable for aquaculture.
But the Trust is only looking at potential profits and ignoring the huge risks posed to both their own and other fisheries,” said Graham Carter.
He said an attempt to allow trout farming in the 1970’s was thwarted when a strong trout angler’s lobby campaigned against then - minister Duncan McIntyre and other National MPs pushing for trout farming. Labour led by Nrman Kirk strongly opposed trout farming and in a landslide victory became government. Newspaper editorials identified Save Manapouri and trout farming as major factors in National’s defeat.
Tony Orman who was in the front line of the 1972 trout anglers’ lobby said scientific evidence from overseas on fish farming warned that trout farming was capital intensive, high risk and of doubtful marginal economics.”
“Nothing has changed, it still requires huge capital, is huge disease risk and has doubtful economic justification.”
In addition trout from farms are invariably very poor quality, insipid, pale and wrinkled. He said he had recently seen farmed trout in Australian shops.
“They were pathetic specimens,” he added.
Graham Carter said the repetitive failings of the salmon farming industry both in New Zealand and world-wide had shown that successive governments would allow anything to try to support the economy with even uneconomic proposals while putting at risk recreational and environment values and the trout tourism industry. Even salmon farming, which is arguably more economic than trout farming, is under huge pressure around the world because of the downstream environmental effects such intensive production farming have and are causing.
“Using the ‘down in Twizel' argument where they've got salmon farms at altitude in the canals, and they've got large trout which feed off the salmon food is a very poor example,” he said. “It doesn’t stack.Those large trout are predatory cannibals which consume a huge amount of other trout and salmon to reach that size. This proposal for Rotoaira clearly lacks a researched business case and reflects the commercial immaturity of the proposers.”