Thieves steal breeding salmon

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012
salmon
NOT THIS GOOD LOOKING: Breeding salmon stolen from Mckinnon Creek Salmon Hatchery will have deteriorated as they waited to breed.

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Mckinnon Creek salmon hatchery has been the victim of a second theft in as many years when 11 salmon were stolen on Friday night.

The loss equates to a potential 40,000 smolt which has upset hatchery volunteers.

Volunteer and angler Bill Whipp spends every second day at the hatchery for eight months of the year.

"I am devastated," he said.

He doesn't think the thieves realise how much damage they have caused.

"Each fish has 3,500 eggs, and we need about 500,000 for our programme," he said.

About 100 volunteers have spent tens of thousands of hours working on the hatchery to bolster dwindling salmon numbers with a goal of pure Rangitata stock only in the river.

Mr Whipp said the adult salmon this year were in "marvellous condition" and his friend caught an 11.3kg salmon yesterday.

The hatchery was established in 2006 by South Canterbury Anglers Association and the Riparian Support Trust. So far the programme has been very effective, with 70 per cent of fish caught in the Rangitata bred through the hatchery.

A big series of gates into the breeding stream holds the fish until their eggs are mature and fertilised in March/April.

Riparian Trust chairman Phil de Joux said the fish stolen had deteriorated as they waited to breed and would not taste as good as fresh salmon.

"They don't eat and go quite dark, they're not 100 per cent fresh," he said.

A camera caught the thieves in 2010 but they could not be identified and the camera has since also been stolen.

The hatchery is beefing up security with a new camera and limiting access to the public.

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- The Timaru Herald

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