Planting scheme to help salmon

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by Al Williams
Volunteers are being called on to help improve salmon numbers in the Rangitata River.
The McKinnon’s Creek Hatchery, on a spring-fed stream on the south side of the Rangitata River, is leading a project to plant 400 metres of the banks of the Rangitata South Irrigation Ltd spawning race, about 1km upstream from the hatchery.
The hatchery is governed by a trust and seeks to improve fish numbers by processing and supplying fertilised eggs to the Rangitata River and further afield when requested.
Hatchery spokesman Phil de Joux for volunteers to help dig in plants along the stream during a public planting day on Saturday, April 22.
“The poor return of adult salmon to local rivers this year has prompted volunteers at the hatchery to organise a planting day at the Rangitata South Irrigation spawning race in the hope of improving the habitat of young salmon that have hatched out from salmon eggs planted in the race,” Mr de Joux said.
“Streamside plants [Carex secta] will be planted along one bank of the race to provide a natural environment for insects and to provide shelter for fish.”
Mr de Joux said anyone was welcome to get involved.
“All that is needed is gloves, a hand trowel or pinch bar and some lunch.
“We will meet at the car park on the south side of the Rangitata River bridge at Arundel at 9.30am on Saturday, April 22.”
An open day for volunteers would follow at the Rangitata South Irrigation intake and ponds about 2pm, he said.
Central South Island Fish & Game officer Mark Webb the return of adult salmon had been “poor this year but better than it looked at the end of January, when we were staring down the barrel of the worst return on record”.
“As to the cause, there are many stressors that impact on the salmon fishery.
“Some are human induced (habitat degradation, loss of habitat area, over-harvest) and some are natural (droughts, floods, predation, food availability),” Mr Webb said.
“This year all the major salmon rivers, which are all on the South Island’s east coast, have suffered similar levels of salmon return. This could mean the problem was “in the marine environment”.
Volunteers can contact Mr de Joux on 0274 422 454 or email phil.dejoux@xtra.co.nz.