Fish 'polluted' - angler

16:00, Dec 20 2010
MUDDY WATERS: From left, Temuka pharmacist Allan Campbell and fisherman Ray Brokenshire inspect the river at the Opihi mouth.
MUDDY WATERS: From left, Temuka pharmacist Allan Campbell and fisherman Ray Brokenshire inspect the river at the Opihi mouth.

A Temuka fisherman believes health warnings on the Opihi River should extend to the fishery.

Health authorities issued warnings last week after algal bloom was found in the Opihi and Pareora rivers. Water surveys found moderate levels of the potentially toxic blue-green algae Phormidium, which is accumulating along the river edges.

However, Temuka fisherman Ray Brokenshire said the warnings for swimming and drinking the water from the Opihi River should be extended to fishing. Mr Brokenshire said he had been forced to chuck back most of his catch as they were "too polluted" to eat.

"I have never seen them this bad," he said.

"I have been fishing by this river since I was 10 years old, that's nearly 50 years now, and if we let it carry on, then it won't be safe for our grandchildren to fish at. It is only going to get worse with more intensive land use."

Mr Brokenshire said he had been fighting about this issue "for at least five years", but when the Herald spoke to various authorities yesterday, none was prepared to be as definite on the matter.


Central South Island Fish and Game officer Mark Webb said there should not be any problems with fishing in the Opihi.

"The fish are likely to have an earthy smell, but there should not be any health problems."

"We have not heard any advice from the community public health officer as of yet," Mr Webb said.

Environment Canterbury freshwater ecosystems manager Tim Davie said the fish should not be too badly affected by the toxic algal blooms.

"It really is more of an issue of contact," he said.

"When dogs, or small children, ingest it, it can cause serious health problems, because it is highly toxic. But I don't think the fish themselves will be affected."

South Canterbury public health officer Daniel Williams said drinking contaminated water, even boiled water, from these rivers should be avoided.

"The information we have is that it is best to avoid contact with the waters, Dr Williams said.

"We don't know whether the fish would be potentially toxic at the moment, so we are urging people just not to come into contact."

ECan will continue monitoring the water quality, but Dr Davie said how long the warnings would be in place depended on the weather.

But Mr Brokenshire called for fishing in the river to be closed.

"What's the point of fishing there if they smell and taste so bad you have to throw them back."


Phormidium is a naturally-occurring, freshwater, brown-black algae.

Although district or city councils may place signs warning of phormidium, these may not be seen at the numerous river access points, hence the need for people to treat every low-flowing river cautiously.

The algae forms dense dark brown or black mats on river stones.

Contact by skin or swallowing can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, and other effects in humans.

Source: ECan

The Timaru Herald