Salmon add to the city's allure

Salmon fishers try their luck on Otago Harbour. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Salmon fishers try their luck on Otago Harbour. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Want to catch a salmon off an inner-city wharf? Well, you could fly to Vancouver, 12,000km away. Or you could try your luck in Dunedin.

Brett Bensemann, chairman of the Dunedin Community Salmon Trust Inc, says those two centres are the only places in the world where salmon can be caught off an inner-city wharf. He hopes Dunedin might one day be known as ‘‘salmon city'', such is the potential for the fishery in Otago Harbour.

Established in 2008 with the aim of establishing and maintaining a self-supporting salmon rearing facility at the Sawyers Bay hatchery, the trust's work not only benefits recreational fishery, but also tourism in the city, Bensemann says.

‘‘We have had tourists coming for four successive years to fish off our inner-city wharves. And, because it is a harbour, no fishing licence is required. That's a great thing.

"When we said we'd like to release 500,000 smolt, some people said it couldn't be done. Now, we've been doing that for two years.

‘‘We have a plan to start a catch-and-release programme at the Sawyer's Bay hatchery. Imagine tourists being able to go there, catch a fish, get their photo taken, then put the fish back.''

The trust works with iwi, the University of Otago, the Dunedin City Council, the Otago Regional Council as well as various fishing clubs, including the Tautuku Fishing Club, Green Island Fishing Club and the Otago branch of the New Zealand Salmon Anglers' Fishing Club.

‘‘This provides a greater ownership from the community,'' Bensemann says. ‘‘As a trust, we see what we do as adding value to the fishing activities of Otago Harbour.

‘‘Overall, fishing is fantastic in Otago Harbour. The reason is the eco-system is healthy; there's a lot of krill and feed in the harbour.

"Outside the harbour, the coastal fishing is protected to a degree by the weather and sea conditions - there are simply fewer good days for recreational fishing than some other places in the country."

Also a member of the Tautuku Fishing Club, Bensemann says they have been helping a group of University of Otago zoology students begin an investigation into breeding blue cod in captivity.

‘‘In New Zealand we only have three types of marine farms: salmon farms, oyster farms and mussel farms. But other fish species are being looked at as farming options.''

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