Christchurch rivers still 'open sewers'

18:09, Sep 18 2014
whitebaiting heathcote river
DON'T EAT THE FISH: Whitebaiters urged not to eat fish caught in Christchurch's "open sewers" rivers.

Health authorities are urging Christchurch whitebaiters to avoid eating fish caught in the city's rivers as they are ''still open sewers'' following the earthquakes. 

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said whitebaiters should not fish in the Avon and Heathcote rivers this season because of the ongoing risk of infection from high levels of E.coli (faecal bacteria). 

Cooking the whitebait would not remove the risk and thawing out frozen whitebait could also cause infection by contaminating chopping boards and utensils. 

Christchurch's rivers were a ''great source of pleasure'' for many Cantabrians and had long been used for sport and recreation and as a source of food, but they were ''far from clean'', Humphrey said. 

''Every time it rains, what is on our street washes into our rivers.''

Faeces from ducks and dogs were the two biggest causes of contamination in the city's rivers, although the number of ducks had decreased since the earthquakes because there were fewer people feeding them and the rivers banks were not being mowed as often.

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Humphrey urged dog owners to be responsible and clean up after their pets to avoid contaminating the rivers further.

''It's something we should all do if we want to improve the quality of the rivers.''

Earthquake damage to the city's drains had also affected the quality of the Avon and Heathcote rivers by allowing raw sewage to flow in after heavy rain.

''Please, please do not whitebait from the Avon and Heathcote rivers. They are effectively still open sewers,'' he said. 

New Zealand's annual whitebait season runs from August 15 to November 30 in all places except the West Coast and Chatham Islands. The West Coast's whitebait season runs from September 1 to November 14, while the Chatham Island's season runs from December 1 to the last day of February. 

The Press