Time for some serious work at the Eastern Fish&Game council in Rotorua.
After spending a wonderful week in Taupo, which allowed me to shoot a staggering number of fish pictures, I had to move on. It was time for some more serious work for Fish&Game. So, I had scheduled some time at the Eastern Fish&Game region in Rotorua.
Rotorua is a city close to the Bay of Plenty and features many geothermal sights. If there is one place where you feel the pulse of New Zealand’s seismic activity – it is here.
However, my main occupancy was to work for Fish&Game and their work is very diverse:
Attending the Monday morning meeting, I met the members of the Eastern Region Fish&Game council. Among the council members was Lloyd, who is responsible for the hatchery.
Lloyd is a very cheerful person, who is probably in his 50s or 60s. His white hair shines silver and more often than not his glasses are on his head. When he laughs – which he does a lot – his smile stretches all across his face and is probably the reason for the deep wrinkles.
From our meeting onwards, I frequently spent time at the hatchery. For example, I helped with feeding the fry, collecting trout in the traps and stripping them for eggs and sperm. Apart from that I was happily taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. This happened on a regular basis.
At one instance, Lloyd showed me how quickly trout can adapt to the background of their pool. For this demonstration, he put some fry from their black basing in a small white pot. Within 15 minutes, the fry in the white pot were significantly brighter than before. When released back to the others, they were clearly distinguishable for another few minutes until they adapted again.
I was pretty stoked when Mat told me that I can partake in a drift dive. He is a younger, sportive field officer with a flair for Whittaker’s Chocolate (who doesn’t?).
Given that I did not know what river we would be snorkelling, I was also kind of nervous. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to this new experience and I could not wait to see New Zealands underwater world.
Later on, Mat told me about safety concerns, because he would be responsible for me. Furthermore, if I missed the exit at the end of the drift dive, there would not have been the brightest outlook:
Apparently, further downstream the water disappeared underground into a hole, just to resurface again and plummeting down a waterfall. Therefore, we agreed that I observed the happening from safe ground. This allowed me to take some aerial shots of this undertaking too.
Apart from the drift dive and the hatchery, I also worked on a wetland. There I helped John with some conservation work on a wetland between Rotorua and Taupo. John is of strong stature and therefore appears very tough. He has a really good temper and is a great story teller. Furthermore, I shared his opinion on tourism in NZ. John concisely put the issue at stakes:
“Welcome to my country, enjoy it, but don’t abuse it!” – John 2019
At the wetland, we prepared everything for the kids who would arrive later to help us. However, they were badly organised and most of them did not even bring proper gear or apparel. It was kind of a fiasco, but it was not the fault of Fish&Game.
Fish&Game also makes sure that people follow the regulations. So, I attended local patrols where John showed me around and checked for any rule-breakers who fished illegally.
During my time in Rotorua, I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at Carmel’s place. Carmel is a wonderful woman, loving and hard-working mother of two boys and just turned 50ish.
This opporunity to stay at their place allowed me to sleep in one of the finest houses I have ever been during my travels. It was a welcome change after many nights in dodgy hostels and rainy nights in the tent or car. Actually, the room even had a bigger bed than I was used to back home!
Nevertheless, it was also at this time that I began to miss my home and all the people on the other side of the earth. I was homesick. It is a rare occasion that I feel like this on my travels, but it also happens to me. I think it had to do with the fact that in Rotorua my pace was more work related. Therefore , I could not distract myself anymore by rushing from one activity to another. I finally had to cope with my demons.
Being homesick was the main reasons, why I did not extend my stay in New Zealand for attending the Fly Fest in Turangi. This event took place only three days after my departure and I was contemplating to stay longer and meet Claudio and Theresa in Taupo again. In retrospection it was the wrong decision; yet at that time, it was the right one though.
Importance of Fish&Game and thoughts on stocking trout
Although I questioned the need for hatching trout in a country like New Zealand, where they are abundant, it seems to be necessary:
According to Fish&Game, only still waters are stocked, which are a put-and-take fishery or do not supply sufficient numbers of spawning grounds. This raises the question, whether it is sustainable to put more fish into an ecosystem which does not provide enough space for reproduction though. I have become very critical regarding human influence on ecosystems, since I watched Patagonia’s Artifishal movie.
Nonetheless, I highly value the work of Fish&Game and strongly believe that they make decisions to their best of their knowledge. Furthermore, all the members of the council have either a fishing or hunting background, which makes them true advocates of the fishery and game birding. In contrast, in many other countries, decisions regarding the environment affecting fish and other wildlife species are made on a political level, where people rarely have such a strong connection to the wild as it is the case at Fish&Game.
Thanks for allowing me this stunning insight. I learnt heaps and made wonderful friends.