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New Zealand anglers in trout poison warning

New Zealand anglers in trout poison warning

Anglers in New Zealand are being warned against eating trout caught in certain areas of the country. This is due to widespread pest control measures undertaken by the government, involving 1080 (‘ten-eighty’) poison pellets being dropped aerially in ‘blanket bombing’ of poisoned baits into around 25 large areas of New Zealand’s South Island, including extensive areas around Otago, South Westland, Murihiku, Taranaki and Waikato, totalling well over 500,000 hectares.

In an effort to prevent rodents, in particular non-native possum species, from impacting upon native bird, lizard and insect populations (possums are also suspected carriers of TB), the Department of Conservation (DoC) has a history of dropping the poison into particularly vulnerable areas, and the baits also drop into waterways where the poisons are consumed by invertebrates and crayfish, and get into the aquatic food chain.

Despite assurances that “1080 is biodegradable, dilutes quickly in water and does not build up in the food chain” and “does not leave permanent residues in water, soil, plants or animals” (Department of Conservation, 2014) there has been an impact upon trout in the 1080 poisoned areas. The trout are eating animals affected by the poison, such as mice swimming across streams or the corpses of larger mammals in water. This, in turn, is resulting in secondary poisoning of fish species such as trout and eels.

Above: Warning signs for the poison at Tongariro. Top of page: A poisoned possum carcass is removed from a New Zealand stream.

Initial research (commissioned by the DoC) by the Cawthorn Research Institute suggests that trout that have eaten mice containing the poison would exceed limits of 1080 accepted by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, a warning already made by the Federation of Freshwater Angler’s as early as February this year. This warning was, at the time, rejected by the DoC, which is funded to the tune of NZ$100 million per annum, and has been using 1080 for approximately 50 years.

Recent tests by the DoC have shown that the amount of trout needed to be eaten to have even a 50% chance giving an average-sized adult a fatal dose would exceed 14 tonnes. Despite this the Department are, in a U-turn to their previous position on the matter, recommending a zero-risk approach to eating trout from affected catchments. Director General of the DoC said “These are preliminary laboratory results and further work is required to assess the risk of wild trout eating potentially contaminated mice in field conditions. We are posting maps showing current operations on our website so anglers who wish to take a zero-risk approach can choose not to eat fish from affected catchments.” This zero-risk recommendation came just four days before the New Zealand trout season officially opened on October 1, potentially harming the country’s successful fishing tourism industry, and its image of a pristine and healthy environment.

Hot Topic on the Forum: We would love to hear your thoughts and to discuss this on the forum, where there is already a topic about the subject, HERE.

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