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Fish & Game vows ‘strong opposition’ to proposals

Fish & Game vows ‘strong opposition’ to trout farming proposals

Fish & Game has confirmed its strong opposition to commercial trout farming following revelations of a Bay of Plenty Regional Growth Study promoting, among other initiatives, the development of a commercial trout industry.

The study, which was undertaken to identify economic opportunities within the region, was commissioned by the Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Primary Industries (MPI) in partnership with the Bay of Connections.

Trout farming has been identified as a ‘key priority for regional development’ after the launch of the study, and the formulation of an action plan endorsed at a workshop involving more than 120 regional leaders and stakeholders.

Fish & Game Eastern Region Manager Andy Garrick says that as the primary statutory manager and guardian of trout in New Zealand waters, Fish & Game is “utterly staggered” to have not been consulted or invited to participate in the development of the strategy and more recent implementation planning.

To hear about the plan through the media is very disturbing, especially when the idea comes from a partnership involving local, regional and central government who should be aware of the law as it stands – which explicitly bans trout farming. They should be upholding the law, not being dismissive of it, Mr Garrick says.

“The Conservation Act specifically prohibits the buying and selling of trout and domestic farming of the fish.”

Mr Garrick says that if the proposals are taken further, Fish & Game will vigorously oppose them alongside sports fishing organisations “and a large number of New Zealanders who are passionate about trout fishing who’ve repeatedly expressed their opposition to trout farming.”

Fish & Game’s position is based on a number of key concerns, Mr Garrick says.

“A key issue centres on poaching – we believe that the setting up of a legitimate commercial market for trout would inevitably result in a black market like that for paua.

“Trout poaching during the spawning season has long been an issue within the Bay of Plenty and Taupo regions.

“It not only removes adults and breeding stock, but can cause extensive damage to spawning habitat, eggs and juvenile fish which in turn, can seriously impact on fish populations and opportunities for law-abiding anglers.

“It also harms local businesses and communities which depend on millions of dollars trout angling and tourism generates for these regions,” Mr Garrick said.

Any trout farming would be highly likely to lead to an increase in both poaching and habitat damage, he adds, so that anti-poaching efforts would have to be stepped up.

“They are currently funded entirely from Fish & Game licenceholder income as Fish & Game receives no revenue or support from local or central government.

“This would impact on the organisation’s ability to deliver other critical species and habitat management programmes.”

Mr Garrick says that other biosecurity-type concerns relate to the risk of disease being introduced to wild populations which while not high, remains a risk.

Another potential issue is the genetic impact on wild fish that might occur if breeding stock was imported to enhance growth rates and flesh quality.

Last but far from least there are cultural, recreational, tourism and economic values to consider, he says.

“ New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed wild trout fishery was established and nurtured for more than a century, not by local or central government, but through the voluntary efforts and financial support of anglers, and various organisations representing their interests.”

And Fish & Game hatcheries have spent more than 50 years producing the best breeding stock possible to release throughout the country’s lakes, he says.

“If anyone can claim a property right to New Zealand’s trout fishery it would be the anglers of this country who’ve made it quite clear on numerous occasions that they don’t want commercial trout farming.

“Over 100,000 anglers annually fish for trout in New Zealand and they are passionate about their sport and the opportunity to harvest free range trout for the table."

Mr Garrick says the economic contribution trout fishing makes to the regional economy in the Rotorua Lakes area alone was estimated to be over $17m 25 years ago – a figure which is likely to have risen significantly.

An investigation of the economic value of the Taupo fishery indicated that it injected $29m into the economy in 2012.

“Why would you want to jeopardise this revenue by allowing commercial trout farming?”

“While the Regional Growth Study makes bold claims about the contribution commercial trout farming along with other initiatives could make to the regional aquaculture target of $250m sales by 2025, and the national target of $1billion, it doesn’t appear there have been any investigations into its financial viability, or reports produced to support the figures.

“Furthermore, there has been no assessment of the potential impact on wild trout populations, the fishery, or its management, let alone the environment.

“There are many sound reasons to support the ongoing ban on commercial trout farming. We hope commonsense prevails and that everyone can avoid a lengthy and bitter legal battle.”

ENDS

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