Iwi want law change to commercially farm trout

By Talisa Kupenga

Central North Island iwi are calling for a law change to commercially farm trout.  Aotearoa is the only country in the world where it is illegal to buy or sell the fish and an iwi leader says the outdated law is locking them out of a lucrative business.

Tuwharetoa traded trout in the early 1900s but in 2019 it is illegal to commercially farm the fish.

Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust Manager Tiwana Tibble says, "It's crazy that New Zealand is the only place in the world that hasn't yet got to the level where you can farm trout."

Trout farming is prohibited under the Conservation Act and the Fisheries Act, but Rainbow trout have been farmed in recreational hatcheries for more than 130 years.

Primary Industries Select Committee member Rino Tirikatene says, "Recreational fishers are very protective of their exclusivity, to be able to catch trout and to prevent commercialisation of the resource."

Tibble says, "This foreign aquatic pest has become local to Ngāti Tūwharetoa, it is a real delicacy in our region."

Trout and Salmon farming were both considered by the government in the 1970s but only salmon farming was allowed.

Tibble says, "Salmon farming down south is worth $500 million in GDP per year and provides more than 2,000 jobs.  We see this as the same great opportunity for us."

Environment Minister David Parker says trout farming is an issue that's been “kicked down the can for many years and probably will be for many years yet."

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor says, "It's an odd situation and time moves on, I think we need to keep the door open."

The Federation of Freshwater Anglers opposes any change, citing poaching, disease, biosecurity and black market risks.