’Last ditch’ battle to save wild salmon

Fish & Game chief executive Martin Taylor addressing the symposium. Supplied photo.

Anglers have been warned they are now in a last-ditch battle to save New Zealand’s wild salmon population.

More than 120 anglers attended Fish & Game’s two day Salmon Symposium in Ashburton over the weekend to hear from local and international experts about possible causes for the decline.

Wild Chinook salmon are highly valued by freshwater anglers and are found mainly in the South Island’s West Coast, Canterbury, Otago and Marlborough regions.

However, in recent years, numbers have dropped sharply, causing increasing concern among anglers.

Opening the symposium, Fish & Game chief executive Martin Taylor told delegates he is committed to halting the decline.

“The big issue is not what caused the salmon population fall but what is now preventing its recovery.

“We need solutions and my promise is that I will be doing my best to deliver on them.  If that means challenging the status quo and upsetting some people, then so be it.”

One of the symposium organisers, Matthew Hall, says anglers need to stop talking and start taking action.

“We are fighting a last-ditch battle to save our wild salmon.  We need to go hard.”

The new Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage won repeated rounds of applause from symposium delegates when she promised to improve water quality, boost DOC funding and restore democracy to ECAN.

In one of her first addresses in her new role, Ms Sage was critical of what she described as the previous government’s inaction on water quality.

“That is going to change. We need to restore flows in our rivers,” she said.

North American salmon expert David Willis says climate change has caused falls in salmon populations across the Pacific.

David, who works for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says action to halt that decline needs to start now.

And he warned that anglers will have to make sacrifices if salmon numbers are to recover. 

New Zealand experts told delegates water quality, sedimentation, irrigation and lack of fencing around spawning streams are all having an impact on local salmon numbers.

Symposium organisers Matthew Hall and Trevor Isitt say the symposium was a success and provided an action plan.  The first step will be establishing a Salmon Action Committee to co-ordinate the recovery strategy.

Both men are determined to halt the decline in wild salmon numbers.

“I am a fourth generation salmon angler and I do not want to lose this magnificent fish.  As far as the battle to save them is concerned, I’m only just starting,” Matthew Hall says.


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