In early August Martin Taylor’s weekly epistle from the mount contained the innocuous statement: “Hi Everybody – Trout Farming Petition
The Primary Production select committee considering the petition of Clive Edward Barker seeking legislative change to allow the commercial farming of trout reported back to Parliament on Friday 7 August. The committee recommends that the Government give serious consideration to commercialising trout farming.”
The Federation of Freshwater Anglers is astounded at the lack of explanatory comment from the National Council’s staff and lack of public follow up to Clive Edward Baker’s submission by Fish and Game’s National Office and National Council. Are the terminally ill National Council too busy shuffling deck chairs in its titanic regional financial fiddling disaster to notice the iceberg of trout farming dead ahead? Those are not polar bears sitting on the iceberg, they are politicians drunk on their neo-liberal agenda. The committee’s report is riddled with inaccuracies and downright terminological inexactitudes. The submitter, his cronies, and the select committee dismissed all the science behind the opposition in favour of opinion by the submitters.
The submitter, Clive Baker is a former salmon farmer whose venture in Golden Bay failed.
The Select committee had four National members, three Labour and one New Zealand First and was chaired by David Bennet (National).
The Department of Conservation in their counter submission emphasised that New Zealand is not easily comparable to other countries that allow the farming and sale of commercial trout. This is because other countries have different fish stocks, use artificial spawning to boost fish numbers, and fisheries are often difficult to access, which limits poaching opportunities. This view was dismissed.
Biosecurity of aquatic species is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Several fish diseases have been detected in hatchery or aquatic rearing facilities at various times in the past. They mainly pose risks to the aquaculture industry, but can also threaten wild fisheries. Also, it is generally more difficult to manage aquatic pests and diseases compared to those found on land. This was also dismissed.
MPI noted that the opportunity to establish trout farms may be limited by the natural environment. In recent years the flooding of many trout spawning sites has caused these sites to become unsuitable. Trout farms would be competing for suitable sites with wild fish populations, which could adversely affect the wild trout fishery. Trout farms would also be competing with salmon farms for the best locations. Again this was ignored.
DOC told us that trout farming could threaten New Zealand’s biosecurity because it would invariably lead to the importation of new genetic material to introduce desirable traits that are not found in the domestic population. Despite New Zealand’s strict biosecurity systems, this material could bring diseases that negatively affect New Zealand’s ecosystems.
Biosecurity of aquatic species is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Several fish diseases have been detected in hatchery or aquatic rearing facilities at various times in the past. They mainly pose risks to the aquaculture industry, but can also threaten wild fisheries. Also, it is generally more difficult to manage aquatic pests and diseases compared to those found on land. DOC said that the effects of trout farming on New Zealand’s biosecurity and the prevalence of diseases are unknown. More monitoring would definitely be required if trout farming was introduced. This also got the “Ho Hum” reaction.
The committee’s report also noted that they heard that the fee for a sports fishing licence may need to be increased to meet costs, if the commercial farming and sale of trout was allowed in New Zealand. Enforcement costs would increase as the process became more complex, with officers having to check documentation to find out whether trout for sale had been obtained legally. Currently, all costs associated with maintaining the wild fishery are covered from the sale of fishing licences and a substantial volunteer effort.
However extra costs to Fish and Game licence holders is obviously not their problem. Why is National Council so silent on this? The Committee then went on to laud the benefits of increased GST and of commerce in the aquaculture industry, only to be followed by the dismissive recognition that “any benefits might be offset by a decrease in employment, commercial activity, and tax benefits if industries dependent on the wild trout fishery experienced a loss of business due to the commercialisation of trout”.
The New Zealand Fish and Game Council did submit. It said “it sees trout farming as a threat to New Zealand’s sport fishing industry and reputation. It notes that New Zealand is one of the top trout fishing destinations in the world and contributes millions of dollars to the rural economy. Fish and Game believes that the legalisation of trout farming would encourage the poaching of wild trout. This would lead to the depletion of wild fish stocks and the destruction of spawning areas. It argues that it would be expensive and difficult to manage the risk of poaching as it occurs out of sight in remote areas”.
Further, Fish and Game says it recognises that the threat of fish diseases is always present, but it believes trout farming may increase this risk. However they said it, they failed to impress.
As licence holders, New Zealand’s freshwater anglers, contribute around $2.7million to support their National Council and its staff. It is not unreasonable for anglers to have had a better “heads up” and follow up on this huge threat to our fisheries. Are licence holders getting their $2.7million per annum worth of value?
The best support for anglers came from DOC’s evidence. They highlighted the two major issues that trout farming overseas has created; disease and poaching.
DOC maintains that the legalisation of commercial trout farming and the sale of trout could adversely affect the New Zealand wild trout fishery. It said that people might be incentivised to poach and sell wild trout if the sale of farmed or imported trout was allowed. Trout lend themselves to easy poaching as they spawn (lay their eggs) in large numbers, often in easily accessible areas. Poaching also damages areas where trout spawn. DOC considers that the wild trout fishery is already under pressure from current fishing levels, and any increase in the number of fish taken could adversely affect its recreational and economic value.
DOC officers have observed people catching 30 to 80 trout in less than an hour by sweeping a spawning area with a net. Currently, this provides a cheap food source but it could be used for financial gain if the sale of trout was permitted in New Zealand. In Australia that catch would be worth between $600 and $1,600 at wholesale prices.
Come on F & G”s National Council, stand up and be effective on an issue that really counts to your licence holders. This sort of poaching has occurred in the past. Where is your strategy?
Federation of Freshwater Anglers Inc. acts to serve the interests of freshwater angling clubs and individual anglers. It has over 500 individual members and many hundreds more in affiliated clubs.