New Zealand has suffered an environmental disaster that’s severely impacted everything from water supplies to fish. Throughout a recent edition of New Zealand’s Fish & Game magazine, this sad story was told.
Unregulated expansion of dairy and other farms, along with lots of development, has harmed their waterways, negatively impacting the environment. For example, 20% of the nation’s drinking water is at risk. They can’t even swim in many of their rivers and streams because of threats to human health, due to toxic algae.
Polluting nitrates from livestock is one key problem. New Zealand’s livestock population has skyrocketed. They now have 6 million cows, with most of the milk going to China. And farmers can take water from rivers and streams, as they wish. Runoff is also a big problem.
In one story, I read that the Selwyn River, which was renowned as a prized brown trout fishery, is in a state of collapse. Close to where it drains into Lake Ellsmore, the river is green, and the river’s flow has dipped 60% in 8 years. In 1964 their Fish and Game agency trapped 14,000 trout moving up the Selwyn River to spawn. In 1984, in the same area, just 40 fish were trapped.
Scientists discovered that, since the 1970s, water taken from rivers and aquifers, primarily for irrigation, increased dramatically, causing a significant decrease in river and stream flows.
One writer noted, “The New Zealand dairy industry has been acting like a mad beaver, polluting watersheds faster than you can milk a herd, all the while transforming our landscape dramatically – pragmatists would even say at a sickening, reckless pace.”
Brown trout are not the only fish suffering a sharp decline. From brook trout to salmon, things are going badly. Salmon are disappearing in the ocean. “Climate change has caused declines in wild salmon populations across the Pacific,” reported one writer.
Interestingly, some of these writers also blame visiting anglers for ruining their fishing experiences, crowding their favorite spots. I can relate to that!