Friday, September 17, 2021
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HomePoliticalNew Rules Introduced To Protect Sea-run Salmon Fishery

New Rules Introduced To Protect Sea-run Salmon Fishery

To help save New Zealand’s wild Chinook salmon species,
a ground-breaking change to freshwater fishing regulations
will introduce a season bag for sea-run salmon in the
2021/22 fishing season, in place of a daily catch

“The wild sea-run salmon fishery has been in
decline for over 20 years, traditional regulatory options
haven’t been working for Fish & Game so new techniques
were required,” says Alan Strong, Chair of North Canterbury
Fish and Game Council.

The celebrated sea-run salmon
fisheries of Canterbury and North Otago account for 90 per
cent of all sea-run salmon caught in the South Island but
spawning runs now see less than 10 per cent of the numbers
seen in the 1990s.

“The decline in spawning runs might
be caused by a host of factors, including habitat and water
quality, hydropower development and irrigation practices,
and ocean temperatures. Most of these factors are outside
Fish and Game’s control. So we have to make the best use
we can of our bag limit power and the data we’ve
accumulated over many years,” says Dr Andrew Simpson, Chair
of Central South Island Fish and Game

Overseas research shows the advantages of
limiting season bags, and in 2020 both Canterbury based Fish
& Game Councils consulted with anglers and jointly
sought Government’s approval to implement a season bag

“It is critical that there are sufficient
sea-run salmon spawning to sustain future generations,” says
Fish and Game Officer Mark Webb, who led the staff team
developing the new approach. “The size of the season bag
limit will be reviewed annually, based on where the size of
the spawning population sits within the range of spawning

Anglers will be able to get their salmon
bag limit card online through the Fish & Game licencing
system, similar to how anglers currently obtain a free
backcountry endorsement.

When an angler reaches their
season bag limit, they will have to stop fishing for salmon
for the remainder of the season. A season bag limit is new
to New Zealand anglers but is widely used to manage
fisheries around the world. Modelling shows that it may be
the single most effective regulation to ensure enough
sea-run salmon reach the spawning grounds.

Fish and
Game’s 2017 Salmon Symposium highlighted the need for more
nuanced management mechanisms that reduced the overall
harvest of salmon while maintaining equitable access to the
fishery for all anglers.

Angler catch surveys indicate
that after spending up to three years at sea, between 40 per
cent and 60 per cent of salmon returning to spawn in
Canterbury rivers are caught by anglers. It is estimated
that a season limit bag of two fish will reduce total catch
by about 35 per cent, directly increasing the number of fish
that can spawn and sustain future generations of salmon. The
season bag is expected to affect only a fraction (about 5%)
of salmon anglers.

“A season bag limit is therefore
the single most effective tool available to protect the
sea-run salmon fishery by ensuring enough salmon reach the
spawning grounds to sustain our iconic East Coast salmon
fisheries” Simpson and Strong note.

In the future,
Fish and Game expect that a season bag limit regime will
allow them to relax current restrictions on when and where
anglers fish, to increase angling opportunities when wild
salmon numbers

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