Planned lowland waterways closure forced by environmental degradation, says Fish & Game
North Canterbury Fish & Game says the proposed ban on winter sports fishing in the lowland waterways is a regrettable measure which comes as the result of long term environmental degradation – seen in silted up streams, lower flows and falling water quality – rather than any overfishing.
The proposed ban involves closing the winter season which currently runs from May to September, over waterways which are east of State Highway One in Fish & Game’s North Canterbury Region.
“While we have great sympathy with concerned anglers the proposed ban is something of a desperate measure aimed at preserving this fishery, which has suffered years of environmental degradation,” says North Canterbury Fish and Game Council Chairman Trevor Isitt.
“We need to preserve what’s left – the remaining spawning that still occurs in these waters – if we are to protect the fishery from complete collapse.
“Sadly we are now seeing the end result of years of over allocation of water resources and deteriorating water quality from agricultural runoff and other forms of pollution.
Mr Isitt says that Fish & Game does not believe at all that the dramatic reduction in sea-run fish can be blamed on any claimed over harvest by anglers.
“Rather we would point to the failure by the regional council and other agencies whose mandate is to protect the environment, including these waterways.
“it’s quite clear that by any reasonable environmental standards Environment Canterbury has failed local people and anglers, by allowing inappropriate land uses such as continued intensified dairying which could not survive without irrigation.
Water quality and freshwater habitats have been permitted to deteriorate far past the point where species like trout can comfortably breed and maintain their life cycles and populations, he adds.
Mr Isitt says that anglers are under no illusions over the situation. He says that Fish & Game held a recent public meeting to air the closure proposals and over 100 anglers turned up who all agreed the lowland and sea-run fishery was in trouble.
“There was unanimous support for closure of the fishery. Anglers agreed to sacrifice their winter fishing but they want to see other bodies such as Environment Canterbury stand up and be accountable – and start addressing the problem of deteriorating streams in a meaningful way.”
Fish & Game staff along with anglers are quite clear that this planned closure is but one small regulatory measure which needs to be followed up by Environment Canterbury and other agencies, he says.