Illegal salmon release

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014

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Hundreds of live salmon have been illegally dumped in a Canterbury lake.

The presence of chinook salmon in Lake Camp, one of the Ashburton Lakes, has raised eyebrows among anglers and the ire of Fish & Game staff.

"This can only be the result of an illegal release as salmon do not occur there naturally and it would be virtually impossible for salmon to find their way there naturally," Fish & Game Central South Island chief executive Jay Graybill said.

It was a serious breach of the Conservation Act, which prohibited the transfer or release of live aquatic life without approval.

Graybill said he had received reports about anglers catching salmon at Lake Camp, but had been sceptical as there was no record of the species at the lake.

However, set nets were used to check whether the reports were true.

The salmon netted averaged about 250mm and were probably approaching two years of age.

Graybill estimated there were "hundreds" in the lake.

"This irresponsible action puts at risk the biodiversity status of the Ashburton Lakes and the credibility of Fish & Game as a resource manager and is a disservice to all responsible anglers."

While it would not do any great harm to the lake, it changed the biodiversity of the area.

"This upsets the balance and we simply don't want recreational fish being transferred and released willy nilly," he said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries had been alerted because the move also raised questions about whether the salmon had been transferred from a didymo-contaminated source.

Graybill said someone in the angling fraternity would know who dumped the fish.

"We will follow up any leads with the view of taking a prosecution. Such blatant disregard for our fisheries and for responsible anglers cannot be ignored."

Fish & Game staff would remove some of the salmon, but there was no practical way to remove them all.

He guessed many would die as they would be unable to find a suitable spawning area in the lake.

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