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New Rules Aim To Protect Salmon Fishery

The most significant change ever to the way sea-run salmon are managed in NZ has been proposed, to help rebuild Canterbury’s wild sea-run salmon population.

In co-operative decisions, the Central South Island Fish and Game Council (CSIFGC) and North Canterbury Fish and Game Council (NCFGC) have formally resolved that a sea-run salmon "season bag limit" regime should be implemented across both regions.

Both Councils have jointly agreed to recommend this new tool, to restore the resilience of wild salmon populations. Fish and Game New Zealand will now seek Government regulations to implement this proposal.

The size of the season bag limit will be reviewed annually, based on where the size of the spawning population sits within the range of spawning thresholds.

"We must have enough sea-run salmon spawning to sustain future generations and right now that’s our priority," Dr Andrew Simpson, Chair of CSIFGC says.

"Any angler who reaches their season bag limit must stop fishing for salmon for the remainder of the season. A season bag limit will be new to New Zealand anglers but is a common fisheries management tool around the world. It is the single most effective regulation to ensure enough sea-run salmon reach the spawning grounds to sustain our iconic East Coast salmon fisheries" Simpson says.

The famous sea-run salmon fisheries of Canterbury and North Otago account for 90% of all sea-run salmon caught in the South Island but now have less than 10% of the numbers seen in the 1990’s.

"It was clear from the 2017 Salmon Symposium that to kick-start the recovery of the sea-run salmon fishery, the current harvest controls, including the daily bag limit, would not be effective to prevent excessive harvest, while also maintaining a fair opportunity for anglers" Alan Strong, Chair of NCFGC says.

Angler catch surveys indicate that after spending up to three years at sea, between 40% and 60% of salmon returning to spawn in rivers are caught by anglers. It is estimated that a season limit bag of four will reduce angler catch by about 16% and this immediately increases the number of fish that can spawn and sustain future generations of salmon.

In the future a season bag limit may allow Fish and Game to relax current restrictions on when and where anglers fish, to increase angling opportunity.

"The adage that 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish holds true for salmon fishing. About 95% of anglers catch four or less salmon each season, so most anglers won’t be affected by the season limit bag of four fish and more fish will be able to spawn" Simpson says.

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