Farming trout commercially could add significantly to the Bay of Plenty’s economic growth, but the concept is abhorrent to many fishers and to Fish & Game.
In fact, Fish & Game is warning any attempt to change current legislation to make trout farming legal will be strongly opposed.
“There are many sound reasons to support the ongoing ban on commercial trout farming. We hope common sense prevails and that everyone can avoid a lengthy and bitter legal battle,” says Fish & Game Eastern Region Manager Andy Garrick.
The idea of commercial trout farming is among initiates the Bay of Connections Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Growth Study says has the potential to promote future economic growth for the region.
Graeme Coates, chair of the Regional Aquaculture Organisation, says a Waikato University study identified the economic opportunities of commercial trout farming, but as trout farming is currently prohibited in New Zealand, it cannot proceed without government changing the legislation.
“In many ways 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.”
Fish & Game is unhappy it was not consulted during the planning stages of the study.
“Given its statutory role, 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,” says Andy.
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.
“The options for trout farming are wide including sea cage farming, a point which is largely missed by opponents to the industry. I might also add the two activities (trout angling and trout farming) are not mutually exclusive so the economic benefit could double rather than see a continued decline in angling revenue,” says Graeme.
A recent report from the Department of Conservation which manages the Lake Taupo trout fishery, shows licence applications are decreasing, he says.
Andy 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?”
Andy says a legitimate commercial market for trout will inevitably result in a black market.
“A black market for trout is likely to lead to an increase in both poaching and habitat damage. An increase in poaching would require much greater law enforcement efforts which are currently funded entirely from Fish & Game licence holder income as Fish & Game receives no revenue or support from local, regional or central government.”
Graeme, however, doubts poaching would be a big issue saying supermarkets would not deal with anyone selling illegal fish.
New Zealand’s wild trout fishery is internationally acclaimed, says Andy. “It was established and has been 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.
“Fish & Game hatcheries have spent more than 50 years producing the best breeding stock possible to release throughout the country’s lakes. 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. More than 100,000 anglers who fish for trout in New Zealand annually are passionate about their sport.”
Currently the concept of commercial trout farming is just that – a concept, but it is contained in the report to government which will be launched by Ministers this month.
The implementation phase of the plan begins in early 2016.