Fish & Game, in collaboration with Canterbury high-country farmers, New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association, Rakaia River Promotions, and ECan, have secured funding from the Ministry for the Environment for a habitat protection project in the headwaters of the Rakaia River.
The funding will allow two staff to identify and protect valuable habitats used for salmon and trout spawning and rearing. Protecting valuable wetland habitats will also be a focus.
The project will also see the East Branch of the Glenariffe Stream, which runs across Glenariffe Station, realigned and protected.
“The stream will be enhanced to increase its productivity for chinook salmon and trout,” said Alan Strong, North Canterbury Fish & Game chair.
The Glenariffe system has historically produced between 20 and 30% of the Rakaia River chinook salmon but in recent years has seen a reduction in returning fish. This system also provides a significant proportion of the Rakaia River trout spawning and rearing, Fish & Game said.
The project is designed to maximise the time juveniles spend in the stable stream environment before entering the more volatile Rakaia mainstem, “this will increase survival rates for both species”, Rasmus Gabrielsson, the CE of North Canterbury Fish & Game said.
Gabrielsson, a freshwater scientist, noted that wetlands protected will also provide additional areas for precious longfin eel to live.
“This work will protect the area for future generations and act as a natural hatchery for the fishermen of the Rakaia River,” said Mark Ensor, Glenariffe Station owner.
Ensor, who has a young family, believes it is possible to run a sustainable farming operation while protecting sensitive habitat and biodiversity for the benefit of future generations of New Zealanders.
The New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association have been part of the Fish & Game Councils decision-making process and fully support the project.
“Anything that helps the iconic salmon of the Rakaia is a positive step forward,” said Larry Burke, president of the New Zealand Salmon Anglers Association.
Rakaia River Promotions, the organisation behind the Rakaia River Fishing Competition, who have a long history of contributing to various projects in the Rakaia catchment, are also part of the team.
“It is fantastic to be part of a proactive project that will safeguard the sustainability of both salmon and trout, which the annual Rakaia River celebration and competition relies on,” said Ken Lee, the president of Rakaia River Promotions.
“We have been working hard on this project for almost a year and have secured funding for the project for the next three years. The team is excited to get boots on the ground and make a start as soon as possible,” Strong concluded.