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River Ecosystems Declining Say Anglers


The public’s trout fishery is severely declining in a number of rivers due to drops in both flow and quality says a national trout fishing advocacy. In his annual report retiring president of the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers Graham Carter told the recent annual meeting in Wellington that chemicals and dairy cow nitrate leaching and demands for irrigation were devastating the natural bio-diversity.

“It’s not just trout but native fish and salmon that also suffer from the depleted flows and degraded water quality. The total ecosystem shows alarming symptoms of disturbing decline to the point of potential collapse,”

Central, local and regional government were failing to address the problem, he added.

Graham Carter fired an arrow at Federated Farmers saying the organisation was too often in denial and in reaction, portrayed trout as “evil, introduced fish.”

“Never mind the introduced cows and introduced humans with their overdosing of fertiliser, nitrate laden runoff and irrigation water grabs to grow pasture in low rainfall areas like the Mackenzie basin and Canterbury Plains,” he said. “Urban areas need to face up to their discharges of sewage, toxic chemicals and stormwater into rivers and coast lines.”

Stormwater often contained a cocktail of chemicals from bleaches, detergents, drugs and even contraceptives. Chlorine had been shown by a Fish and Game study in 1971 to be highly lethal in very minute quantities to trout and no doubt native fish. The effect on indigenous fish raised the question as to the Department of Conservation’s absence.

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Graham Carter said the Federation would not generalise by criticising all farmers. Many were responsible stewards of their land but the advent of corporate dairy farming under the previous government had been a disaster for the publlc’s waterways.

Also responsible for the deteriorating state of rivers and streams was the monoculture of plantation pine forestry with depleted flows and a profound effect on stream flows and at clear felling time, a runoff of silt and debris that smothered vital bottom fauna insect larvae.

Graham Carter said these views were verified by the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report which painted a dismal portrait of the state of the public’s rivers and streams.

“The Federation will continue to urge central government to step up to the mark and all three coalition partners to honour their commitment to clean up rivers from their deteriorated state,” he added.

Graham Carter said the Minister of Conservation should be addressing the declining habitat for fish rather than blaming trout as “ravenous predators" of native fish such as whitebait. Trout had co-existed with whitebait and eels for over a century with no ill effects until the recent habitat degradation and uncontrolled commercial fishing occurred.

Instead the Minister had tried to introduce an Indigenous Fish Bill which was a thinly disguised attempt to wrongly blame trout for the demise of native fish.

“This bill appeared to be driven by the current Minister of Conservation with her adherence to the anti-introduced dogma.”

Election of officers resulted in Peter Trolove of Canterbury being elected president for the coming year.


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