By Elaine Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org
It may have been identified as a key economic opportunity in the Bay of Plenty Growth Study, but Fish & Game say they “strongly oppose” commercial trout farming and claim they were not consulted over the proposal.
Regional Manager New Zealand Fish & Game (Eastern Region) Andy Garrick says the organisation were not contacted before or during the planning phase of the strategy.
“Given its statutory role,” says Andy, “Fish & Game is staggered to find itself in the position of not having been contacted, or invited to participate, in the development of the Bay of Connections Regional Growth Strategy or the more recent action planning process for the aquaculture sector.
“If the RGS Action Group takes steps to implement commercial trout farming as a cornerstone project, it can expect a very vocal response from the freshwater angling fraternity, and strong opposition from Fish & Game NZ at both regional and national levels.”
The Bay of Connections Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Growth Study has named eight key areas to promote future economic growth for the region, and aquaculture – including trout farming – is among them.
Graeme Coates, chair of the Regional Aquaculture Organisation, says a Waikato University study identified the economic opportunities of commercial trout farming.
However, as the practice is currently prohibited in New Zealand, it cannot proceed without government changing the legislation.
“In many ways,” says Graeme, “the situation and arguments against trout farming are similar to those in the days before salmon farming and deer farming became legal in New Zealand.
“None of the concerns raised by objectors back then eventuated.”
Graeme acknowledges that Fish & Game was not individually invited to any of the open forum meetings to discuss aquaculture possibilities, but says the organisation was always welcome to attend.
Andy says Fish & Game will vigorously defend the status quo if the regional growth study action group proceeds with recommendations in its action plan to amend legislation to allow trout farming and the sale of trout.
“The economic contribution that trout fishing makes to the regional economy in the Rotorua Lakes area alone was estimated to be over $17m – and that was 25 years ago, so this figure would undoubtedly have risen significantly,” he says.
“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?”
Fish & Game hatcheries have spent more than 50 years producing the best breeding stock possible to release fish 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, and they have made it very clear on numerous occasions that they do not want commercial trout farming.”
The 100,000-plus anglers who fish for trout in New Zealand annually are passionate about their sport and the opportunity to harvest free range trout to put on the table, he adds.
The commercial farming of trout is just one of the economic opportunities included in the growth study, launched by the government in June 2014.
Independent consultants Martin Jenkins identified commercial trout farming as one of the cornerstone opportunities for development in the aquaculture strategy. The strategy can be found at: www.bayofconnections.com