Late November 2017 Fish and Game were alerted to a Sanford fishing vessel returning to Port Timaru with a number of fish bins of salmon. This initially excited them as this usually indicates signs of a good return to our rivers.
Fish and Game then contacted the owner of Pegasus Fisheries, Tony Threadwell, a prominent quota holder of Red Cod and Barracouta around Banks Peninsula, who immediately contacted one of his skippers who had just returned to Lyttleton.
The skipper indicated they had also landed a number of bins of salmon. Mr Threadwell was quite alarmed at this, as there is a maximum of 5,000 kg permitted each year as by-catch amongst the parties who signed this agreement and he feared this would be exceeded very quickly and force them to exit the exclusion zone around Banks Peninsula before the area was opened to all vessels.
These vessels have an exclusive right to fish here under the Salmon at Sea Agreement.
Mr Threadwell informed Fish and Game that they caught several ton of escaped farmed salmon, total under 5,000 kg, however very few wild salmon, with the total across the whole east coast estimated to be a few hundred kg of wild salmon for the season (at an average of 4 - 5kg, only 60 - 70 salmon).
20 years ago there were a number of vessels with restricted horsepower permitted in the exclusion zone/period, however today only 2 – 3 boats operate there during this period.
Mr Threadwell said this had been a very poor season for Red Cod, Barracouta and Blue Warehou, their three main quota species which tend to have similar abundance periods as salmon. He also said ocean temperatures were 2 – 3 degrees warmer than usual and that the ocean conditions were very unusual this year.
Many keen salmon fishermen and former volunteers for Fish & Game have gone on one of these Salmon By-catch Monitoring trips into the "Salmon Conservation Area" to ensure that the operations are carried out according to the rules.
North Canterbury and CSI F&G Councils decided they were not going to continue to send observers on these vessels about ten years after the Salmon at Sea Agreement was signed, as on trips post this agreement, very few salmon were caught.
For the first 15 years of the Agreement it was compulsory for the named vessels fishing in the SCA to carry FandG verifiers. After this it was at the discretion of FandG to provide verifiers on a random basis.
A volunteer verifier was on the Sanford vessel prior to the 17/18 Salmon At Sea season at Sanford request. That vessel landed 394 salmon of which 22 were wild and 372 were farm origin all of which were processed by the verifier. After that catch Sanford voluntarily decided not to fish the Salmon Conservation Area during the season because of the high salmon bycatch.
FandG say that this cannot be determined until they are landed, however these were all a consistent size and smaller than wild salmon. They heard of the escape from Akaroa Salmon just after hearing of the salmon landed and it was obvious the salmon landed were these escapee fish. Farmed salmon are very easily distinguished from wild salmon as any Twizel hydro canal angler will attest – their tails are worn flat.
Unlike the MPI and DoC, Fish and Game take their responsibilities more seriously and monitor what happening in this area.
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