Fishermen furious at 1080 drop

Fishing guide Peter Carty points to a 1080 pellet in the South Branch of the Mokihinui River.

Fishing guide Peter Carty points to a 1080 pellet in the South Branch of the Mokihinui River.

Two fishing tour guides want answers after they found themselves inside a 1080 drop-zone on the Mokihinui River, despite having an operating permit that requires them to be notified when the poison is dropped.

Guides Peter Carty of Murchison and Tony Entwistle of Richmond, and his client, Dale Kinsella were dropped off by helicopter on the Mokihinui River on the West Coast earlier this month and were fishing near Stern Creek on the south branch of the river when they noticed another helicopter fly towards them.

They initially thought it was dropping off anglers and they were surprised to see it had a bucket hanging underneath and that it was carrying out a 1080 operation.

Carty said the river was popular for helicopter fishing and it was important measures were in place to make sure no-one was in the drop zone.

"The thing that really annoys us is that it would have taken five minutes to fly the river and see if anyone was there," he said. "Ten minutes out of their day and they could have checked the whole south branch, gone back and picked up their bucket and got back to it."

Entwistle said he pulled out a fluorescent yellow flag which he used to signal their chopper at the end of a trip and waved it in the direction of the helicopter which appeared to veer away from the fishing party.

They then contacted their helicopter pilot who hadn't heard of the operation. Their pilot in turn contacted the Department of Conservation which confirmed that Entwistle and his fellow anglers were fishing inside the zone where a 1080 operation was being carried out.

The drop was carried out by TBfree New Zealand as part of a combined bovine tuberculosis and Department of Conservation 'Battle for our Birds' operation.

Nick Hancox, senior operational policy advisor for Operational Solutions for Primary Industries, which runs TBfree New Zealand, said the pilot applying the bait did not see the fishing party on the ground. If he had done so, the operation would have been stopped until the individuals could be notified and given a chance to leave the area.

Entwistle found it hard to believe they were not seen:"He must be one unobservant chopper pilot."

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Carty said the first time they waved the fluorescent material, the helicopter appeared to veer away from them. "I assure you he did quite a deviation.

No pellets were dropped directly on them but the helicopter continued with the operation, flying back and forth nearby for close to an hour.

As guides, both Entwistle and Carty have New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association concessions which means they are to be notified by the relevant authority whenever a 1080 drop is occuring.

Carty said neither he nor Entwistle were notified about the operation, but they since discovered fellow fishing guide Zane Mirfin received an email about the scheduled drop.

Department of Conservation communications advisor Trish Grant said they provided a list of concessionaires operating in the Mokihinui area to TBfree NZ for notification. It was regrettable that those in question had been inadvertently omitted from the list.

Hancox said consents issued by the West Coast Regional Council and the public health unit of the West Coast Canterbury District Health Board allowed bait to be applied without a buffer zone, over the Mokihinui river bed.

Exclusion of the river bed would enable possum, rat and stoat survival along the river banks which would undermine the pest control efforts, said Hancox.

As the fishing party continued upstream, they came across evidence of the operation.

"Everywhere you looked you could see a pellet," said Carty.

Based on what he saw in 100 metres, Entwistle estimated there were between 100 and 200 pellets per 100 metres along the river bank and in the water.

He said he wasn't so concerned with the fact 1080 was being dropped, but more that it was going into the river.

"We have scant concern for the quality of water in this country."

Both Entwistle and Carty said they could smell the cinnamon oil which is used as a lure on the bait and a separate distinct chemical smell as the walked through the area where bait had been dropped.

Carty said he had been approached by the public health unit which was investigating a complaint about the operation from a third party. He was advised to have a blood test after the event and is waiting for the results.

He had also put a complaint into the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association about why he wasn't notified in advance.

"It wasn't a very nice experience, they need to get their act together."

 - The Nelson Mail

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