Sea run salmon crisis prompt daily bag limit change

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    Allan Burgess

    Sea run salmon crisis prompt daily bag limit change
    Dirk Barr, a field officer with North Canterbury Fish and Game, holds a salmon at the Manuka Point breeding area in the upper Rakaia River valley.

    Dirk Barr, a field officer with North Canterbury Fish and Game, holds a salmon at the Manuka Point breeding area in the upper Rakaia River valley.

    By Doug Sail 21 June 2019

    Anglers chasing sea run salmon will be limited to just one fish a day as two Canterbury Fish and Game regions join forces in an attempt to save the fishery.

    Faced with continual decline, Fish and Game’s Central South Island and North Canterbury regions have agreed to align most of their salmon regulations.

    For the first time daily bag limits for salmon caught along the Canterbury coast will be the same, as will the fishing season length for salmon from December 1 to March 31.

    Fish and Game said while there are many factors impacting the sea run salmon population – climate change, water abstraction, ineffective fish screens, ocean temperatures – their goal of aligning the fishing regulations is to increase the number of wild salmon reaching the spawning grounds.

    “The most effective tool we have to address the crisis is to limit angler harvest,” North Canterbury chairman Alan Strong said.

    Halving the daily bag limit to one fish a day is designed to increase the number of salmon reaching the spawning streams by 10-20 per cent. The move falls into line with similar limits agreed to in recent weeks by Otago and Nelson and Marlborough councils.

    However, Strong said the burden of restoring the salmon fishery cannot be borne by anglers alone and regional councils will be challenged to improve compliance around things like ineffective fish screens.

    CSI chief executive Jay Graybill said “Fish and Game has worked for decades and continues to work on aspects critical to the sustainability of the salmon fishery including: by-catch of salmon at sea, the loss of juvenile salmon to irrigation and water takes, the enhancement of spawning habitat and the supplementation of the wild fishery with hatchery releases”.

    Graybill said the two organisations are also developing an innovative management strategy for salmon that will allow anglers to see what the state of the salmon fishery is, and when regulation changes will kick in.

    “The strategy will update yearly based on rolling average of spawning return counts. Modelling we have done has shown if we had enacted this strategy 20 years ago the numbers of fish returning would have been much higher that we have currently”.

    “Using this plan will allow, in times of abundance, that we can increase angler harvest sustainably.”

    Part of the plan includes the concept of a season bag limit, a technique used overseas with success.

    Fish and Game communications adviser Richard Cosgrove said overseas coupons or tags, for example, were used that allowed an angler a certain amount of fish a season.

    Cosgrove said it was seen as the best way of increasing returning salmon numbers.

    “That way people would get to fish where and when they want over a season (until they get to their season limit).”

    Cosgrove said, however, New Zealand doesn’t have legislation in place for season limits.

    “It’s quite common overseas, just not in New Zealand.”

    Cosgrove added that the whole process was playing a “long game” to restore salmon numbers.

    Over 20 years sea-run salmon numbers have plummeted and it will take a long time to restore them, Cosgrove added.

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