150 years of brown trout

Christine Brueker - a visiting German tourist and passionate fly fisher.

October 10 marked the 150th anniversary of the introduction of brown trout to New Zealand - a species which has since become culturally, environmentally and economically important.

The European natives were first introduced here in 1867 from British  stock established in Tasmania just three years earlier.

“With a finhold now established in the southern hemisphere, brown trout were bred in Tasmania and their eggs were brought to New Zealand by the Canterbury Acclimatisation Society,” says Fish & Game New Zealand’s chief executive Bryce Johnson.

Only three trout hatched from the 1200 Tasmanian eggs. The first trout to hatch in New Zealand was a brown in Christchurch’s Hagley Park on October 10, 1867. The lone fish was followed a few days later by a further two.

Brown trout have since become widely established in both the North and South Islands. In the process, they have become a culturally valuable species and one that has been a catalyst for protecting the environment, water quality and some of the country’s most outstanding wild rivers, lakes and streams.

“Trout are important because they act as an umbrella species and safeguard the environment because they are critical indicators of high water quality,”  says Bryce.

“They are the canary in the mine – if water quality is deteriorating to the point that trout can’t survive, then native species, which have a higher tolerance for poorer water quality, will also become more threatened.

“As a result, 12 of the country’s 15  Water Conservation Orders have been secured because of the high quality of their trout fisheries.”

Brown trout also provide the foundation for a multi-million dollar tourism industry.

“New Zealand’s brown trout fishery is rated as one of the best on the planet, attracting anglers from all over the world,” says Bryce.

“Some of these are high-spending international travellers who are happy to pay significant sums of money to pursue trout.”

It is cash that provides a boost to regional economies through not only fishing guides, but also food, travel and accommodation. Trout fishing is also popular with New Zealand anglers, with more than 100,000 licences sold every year.

But the impact of trout angling isn’t confined to recreation – it also provides the basis of a dedicated manufacturing industry.

“New Zealand makes very good fishing rods, outdoor clothing and boats, along with other fishing equipment such as trout flies, all of which provides jobs and gives a boost to the national economy,” says Bryce.

“All this flowed from the hatching of a single brown trout in Hagley Park,  150 years ago.”  


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