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Hatchet Job on Trout and Salmon Hatcheries?

Hatchet Job on Trout and Salmon Hatcheries?

A commissioned NZ Fish and Game report by Nelson’s Cawthron Institute decrying trout and salmon hatcheries has been described as a “hatchet job” by a prominent Canterbury ecologist and river advocate.

Rex Gibson of Christchurch said the report was primarily a tirade of prejudices and opinion and lacked reality and objectivity.

The report's key recommendations were:

• The practice of releasing juvenile life-history stage trout into rivers and streams should be discontinued.

• All hatchery release programmes should focus on creating put-and take style lake fisheries in waterbodies where it can be demonstrated that natural recruitment is limited.

• Releasing juvenile salmonids in open river systems has a high chance of failure and there can be negative consequences for wild fisheries.

• Fish and Game should develop an inter-regional peer-review process for all hatchery release programmes.

• The burden-of-proof that demonstrates benefits should be placed on all release programmes.

"This has to be the most poorly edited and convoluted piece of “scientific” reporting on New Zealand freshwater angling for some time,” said Rex Gibson. "The most unfortunate aspect of this is that the writer bases much of the criticism on comparisons between production/commercial hatchery data from North America (much of it outdated) with enhancement hatchery data in New Zealand. It is like comparing apples with artichokes."

Rex Gibson questioned the impartiality and credibility of the Cawthron Institute in using the anti-introduced ideology into its argument. The report stated 'When people who support this principle [the introduced predator free movement] learn that trout are not a native species, and that they are predators, it is a short logical step to determine that this is undesirable.”

“That’s digressing into the nebulous worlds of myth and politics,” he said.

Nature was built on food chains where predators were a balancing mechanism.

Trout were an established part of aquatic ecosystems from Northland to the Bluff in equilibria that dated back well over 100 years. In the limited cases where trout allegedly presented ‘harmful’ predation to any native species it was always where the habitat had been ravaged by the activities of settlement and agriculture by humans.

“This section of the report bizarrely aligns the Cawthron Institute with the anti-angling, anti-introduced idealogues, strange since Fish and Game had commissioned the report.”

Rex Gibson said the report’s authors seemed to lack an understanding of the South Island’s salmon fishery currently in a perilous state.

"The regional case study on North Canterbury is eight pages of opinion founded on the writer’s apparent inability to understand the New Zealand salmon fishery,” he said.

The report failed to address the salmon crisis in the South Island, the dewatering of rivers across the country for irrigation and the dramatic increase in chemical additives into the trout waters in recent years; all of which impact on freshwater ecosystems, trout and consequently stocking practices.

Fish and Game and its shareholders the trout and salmon fishing public were poorly served by reports such as the Cawthorn Institutes' one which ignored decades of local research in favour of literature searches of foreign or largely out-dated data.

“We have an environmental crisis in New Zealand and it is not just in the Waikato and Canterbury that our waterways, and thus fisheries, are in trouble. A report such as this should have focussed on what can be done to enhance angling and thus the environment that supports salmonids. It needed more evidence and a lot less opinion,” said Rex Gib

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